Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

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entire contents copyright 2008 by Tony Annicone

"Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Reagle Players' first show of their 40th season is the biblical story of Jacob and his 12 sons in the musicalized version, "Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". It is a spectacular presentation and stars American idol finalist Ayla Brown as the narrator and Broadway star Eric Kunze as Joseph. It was written in 1968 by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim RIce as a 15 minute cantata, this now 2 hour show is high energy from start to finish. The 31 performers plus a 70 member choir of children under the direction and choreography by Susan M. Chebookjian and musical direction by Dan Rodriguez with children's choir direction by Jose Delgado, have all the necessary ingredients to make this one of the best shows of this season. Earning them all, a well deserved standing ovation making "Joseph & the Technicolor Dreamcoat", a definite must see show.

The storyline is told by the narrator who interacts with her fellow actors and sings to and with the 70 children at various times in the show. 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 Pharaoh's second in command because of his gift for interpreting dreams. Director Chebookjian takes this story and creates many magnificent picture postcard moments throughout the show. She combines moments of shtick and pathos to deliver a well rounded show for the audience to enjoy. Susan also creates and uses a variety of dance styles including a hoe down, tango, the limbo, the swim and the 50's rock and roll. She taught the huge cast these dances and they all execute them perfectly and has the cast and children move around the enormous set with ease. Susan has a good eye for detail and this wonderful show is a prime example of it.

Since this soft rock musical is entirely sung, Dan Rodriguez as musical director not only taught the cast these songs but has the harmonies soaring within them. He plays the keyboard and conducts the beautiful sounding orchestra. Jose Delgado taught the children's choir their numerous songs and they sound incredible, too. Another outstanding aspect of this show is the scenic design by Peter Colao with his numerous setting of Canna and Egypt. The costumes by Gayle Sullivan and Mark Thompson including some gaudy looking 1960's jumpsuits(which are a hoot) are perfect while the lighting design by David Wilson shines through. Stage manager Karen Parlato keeps 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 beautiful and statuesque 19 year old Ayla Brown. She has a fantastic soprano voice which soars in all her numbers including the Prologue, Poor Poor Joseph and Go, Go Joseph. She weaves her way in and out of the numbers with rest of the cast beautifully. Ayla can not only belt her voice but sings sweetly on her softer ones, too. She is a dynamic performer and she makes this role her own. Her talented partner in this show is Eric Kunze as Joseph. He has a fabulous tenor voice whether he is singing softly in "Any Dream Will Do" or with deep feeling in "Close Every Door" where his voice soars off the scale sending chills up your spine with its poignancy. His interactions with the other characters are handled as well as 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 Eric and Ayla.

The other 11 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 slowly and sadly to Jacob and then with wild abandon by Andrew Giordano in his lilting tenor voice, ( the sorrowful obligato is sung by Lenni Kmiec in her soprano voice), the "Benjamin Calypso" is sung by another powerful tenor Jason Michael Butler (who played the tenor soloist in last year's "Singin' in the Rain") and another voice that soars off the charts is Colin Liander in the French type song "Those Canaan Days". The other talented brothers include Paul Reynolds, Jason Gaffney (who I first saw in "A Chorus Line" years ago) Christopher King who also plays the doomed Baker, the athletic Stephen Cerf, Matthew Kossack who also plays the proper Butler, Cory Stewart, Scott Abreau and Matt Romero. Another stunning performer is Jeffrey King as the Pharaoh. He plays the part perfectly making the chorus girls faint at the proper moments. The brother's father Jacob and Potiphar are played by Gordon Baird. He shows his warmth and humor as Jacob and anger as Potiphar. The old man gets the dancing girl at the end of "Canaan Days" which is hilarious. Potiphar's seductive wife is played by Hilary Rushford where she seduces Joseph and gets him thrown in jail. The women have a lot more to do in this version of the show than in the original while they sing and dance up a storm. Another strong part of the show is the "Mega Mix" where the energetic cast reprises most of the songs from the show brilliantly. So go, go and see "Joseph" in Waltham for the Reagle Players 40th anniversary season to lift your spirits during the springtime and summer season in MA. It is like going to Broadway in your own backyard. Bravo!

"Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (12 - 21 June)
617 Lexington Street, WALTHAM MA
1 (781) 891-5600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide