note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
Seeing blond, fresh-faced, 2005 American ldol finalist Anthony Federov portraying Joseph instead of Broadway stars Donny Osmond, David Cassidy, his half-brother, Patrick, or Eric Kunze in the title role of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s multi-award winning, musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” is a culture shock for theatergoers.
Federov looks vulnerable, youthful, but proves his mettle in his fabulously heart-rending dramatic number, “Close Every Door,” when he’s imprisoned after being wrongfully accused of committing adultery with Egyptian pyramid realtor Potiphar’s sexy wife. Shackled, and kneeling, Joseph pleads to God for deliverance, during this heartfelt, dramatic scene. His plight is illuminated by the children’s ensemble encircling him, holding glassed tapers.
At North Shore Music Theatre’s (NSMT) production running through August 22, Federov also frolics with 20 jump-roping, hop-scotching local area children, tosses a rainbow-colored beach ball to them and to Joseph’s 11 jealous, older brothers. This childlike opening is a departure from the presidium-staged, splashy, spectaculars generally staged in theaters here and abroad.
In fact, NSMT’s 1-1/2-hour version of the rollicking, family show that retells the Biblical tale of Joseph; his adoring father, Jacob; his 11 jealous older brothers in Canaan, and Joseph’s ultimate rise to power, from prisoner to Pharoah’s right-hand man, seems geared towards a younger audience. There’s more silliness than usual, yet several older theatergoers loved the hyperbolic shtick.
Although scenery is sparse, given the huge cast, there are special touches that add to the glitz and glamor. Joseph arrives in a dazzling golden chariot; he’s breathlessly tossed into an abyss in the center of the stage; and glittery, tacky parrots and palm trees are suspended from the ceiling. The overall production is bolstered by Christopher Chambers’ fabulous lighting effects and James McCartney’s sound design.
From start to finish, the play is mirthsome, engaging. Adult and children’s ensembles line the aisles, urging the audience to get up, move, dance, clap, and enjoy themselves during the last-minute, run-through megamix finale of the show’s most popular numbers. Everyone leaves happily, dancing out of the theater, in time, to the joyous, upbeat chimes of Music Director Eric Alsford and the NSMT Orchestra.
Besides enjoying Webber’s catchy music, choreographer-director Jayme McDaniel’s energetic choreography, McDaniel’s and James Rocco’s original staging, and Jose Rivera’s stunning costumes and headdresses, it’s amazing to watch this huge cast maneuver. They’re like a panorama, around and on this small circular stage and its outer extended lip, with the stars frequently elevated and descending on a central, circular platform.
While some of the tomfoolery is, indeed, fun and games, especially during Joseph’s brothers’ big numbers in Acts I and II - “One More Angel in Heaven,” performed in a rollicking western beat, and the hysterical “Those Canaan Days,” performed as a French bistro with adagio-apache dancers - other times it’s exaggerated, sophomoric. However, children in the audience loved every minute of it.
The audience also enjoyed actor Gary Lynch, whose regal entrance rivals King Tut, but he gyrates, rocks, sneers and sings as the Elvis-like pharaoh. Talented and pretty Jennifer Paz adds her charm as Joseph’s modern narrator; and the entire cast puts everyone in the groove, especially during big number “Go,Go,Go, Joseph”.
Let’s face it- when you have 20 adorable local children (including Revere’s Brandon Barbosa, 8, and Winthrop’s Mia Dalessio, 10) who are smiling, dancing, and singing their hearts out, and a talented, rambunctious cast, their enthusiasm is catchy.
BOX INFO: Two-act, 1-1/2-hour, musical by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, starring Anthony Federov, appearing now through August 22, the North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) at 62 Dunham Road, Beverly. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35-$65. Check for a few free audience enrichment events. Call 978-232-7200, visit the Box Office or www.nsmt.org.