The Biblical story of Jacob and his twelve sons in the musicalized version, "Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat", is a spectacular presentation as the final show of Academy Players 46th season. Written in 1968 by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice as a 15 minute cantata, this now 90 minute show is high energy from start to finish. The 34 performers under direction by Michael Farrelly, musical direction by Scott Morency and the choreography of Jennifer Martirano, have all the necessary ingredients to make this one of the best community theatre shows of the year. Earning them all, a well deserved standing ovation, making "Joseph" a definite must see show this season.
The storyline is told by a Narrator who interacts with her fellow actors and sings it to the 8 children in the chorus. Joseph has prophetic dreams and is the best loved son of his doting father, Jacob who gives him the coat of many colors. His 11 brothers become jealous of his prophecies and his splendid coat that they sell him into slavery in Egypt. There Joseph rises from House slave to become Pharoh's second in command because of his gift for interpreting dreams. Director Farrelly takes this story and creates many magnificent picture postcard moments throughout the show. He combines the elements of shtick with pathos to deliver a well rounded show for the audiences to enjoy. Michael has his performers move about the two story set with ease as well as up the center aisle, entering and exiting during the many numbers. He has a good eye for detail and this wonderful show is proof of his talent as an excellent director.
Since this soft rock muscial is entirely sung, Scott Morency as musical director not only teaches the cast their songs, he also has the harmonies soaring within them. He plays the keyboard and conducts the orchestra at the same time. Scott has two strong leads and a talented chorus to make the music sound magnificent throughout the whole theatre. The last component but not the least is the excellent dancing by the cast. Jennifer as the head choreographer and her two assistants, Beth Bolig and Mary Ellen Beaudreau, use a variety of dance styles including country western, the tango, the limbo, the swim and the 50's rock and roll. She leads the huge cast into performing these intricate dance steps with ease and makes them all look like professional dancers. Kudos to Michael, Scott and Jennifer for a job very well done.
Another outstanding aspect of this show is the two tier set built by the producer, Anthony Prichard. It is not only enormous but gorgeous to look at, too. The moving doors in the center have an Eygptian face painted on them and there are two sets of stairs on each side with platforms on the top so all areas of it are utilized by the cast. He also has two flaming lights on stage that look like real fire and the set lights up during the finale sequence with multicolored strobe lighting. Dennis Pouliot handles the numerous lighting changes and Peter McDonough supplies the bodymikes to enhance the voices during the musical numbers. Stage managers, Deb Weaver and Janet Prichard keep things moving during the show, making it flow seamlessly from one scene to the next.
The most important part of this show are the two leads. The Narrator is played by the beautiful, blonde songstress, Siobhan McHugh. She has a fantastic soprano voice which soars in all her numbers. She weaves her way in and out of the dancing and singing numbers with the rest of the cast beautifully. Siobhan can not only belt her numbers but she can sing as sweetly on the softer ones, too. She is a dynamite performer and she makes this role her own with an outstanding performance. Her talented partner in the show is Donald Dallaire as Joseph. He has a fabulous tenor voice whether he is singing softly at the start of "Any Dream" or with deep feeling in "Close Every Door" where the ending soars off the scale sending chills up your spine with its poignancy. Not only does he possess a great voice but Donald is an accomplished dancer who joins in some dance numbers, too. His interactions with the other characters are handle very well with his warm, touching relationship with Jacob, standing out. You need two strong performers to lead the ensemble but in this case the rest of the cast lives up to the high standards set forth by Siobhan and Donald.
The other eleven brothers have oodles of talent and they also shine in their singing and dancing prowess. The standout solos include the country western song, "One More Angel" sung by Tim Grant in his lilting tenor voice, (the sorrowful obligatio is sung by Trish St. Laurent in her lovely soprano voice) the "Benjamin Calypso" sung by the manic, Stephen DeCesare who encourages the audience to sing along during the Megamix segment and the Maurice Chevalier French number, "Canaan Days" sung by Chris Schultz with his incredibly powerful, baritone voice. The other talented brothers include Brian McGovern (who also plays the doomed baker) joseph Turchetta, Sean Bumpus, Ian Richardson, Steve Michelsson, Joseph Gilmore (who also plays the very British butler) and Taylor Mitchell (who plays the youngest brother Benjamin) Another brother who plays two roles is E'Stefano-Ray Santo. He plays the Pharoh perfectly while singing in a mellow tone like Frank Sinatra making the chorus girls faint and singing to individual women in the audience, too. (I understood all his lyrics clearly because he didn't try to imitate Elvis, even though he does appear in an Elvis red jumpsuit later in the show, E'Stefano makes the role his own.) The brothers father, Jacob and Potiphar are played by veteran actor, Paul Mancini. He shows his warmth and closeness to Joseph at the start of the show by playing games with him. Paul also displays the anger needed for the jealous Potiphar. He has a strong voice which he uses in his solo parts in the show especially his French verse in "Canaan Days" where the old man gets the dancing girl not his boys. Potiphar's slutty wife is played by Sarah Bilofsky who seduces Joseph and gets him thrown in jail.
The women have a lot more to do in this version of Joseph than in the original show, making them more than just bystanders to the action they are now part of it. The talented girls including Sarah are, Christine Romanello, Lauren Steingold, Janine L. Weisman, JoAnn Maccarone, Trish St. Laurent, Diana Truesdale and Naomi Wilkinson. The French tango number is performed by the sexy, Beth Bolig and the hairy Ishmaelites who sell Joseph to Pharoh are played by Janet Prichard, Alex Stevens and Richard Nardella. The children's chorus members are Caroline Bateson, Andrew and Sarah Hayden, Ashley Lockaby, Christiana Rodi, Amanda Beaudoin, mallory Moreau and Danielle Loumena. Although they only sing from the pit, they all have strong singing voices and add to the choral part of the show.
So go, go, go to see "Joseph" at Academy Players at the Odeum Theatre in East Greenwich to lift your spirits during the springtime in RI.