TMP has fun with ‘Technicolor Dreamcoat’
The 10th anniversary revival of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Tacoma Musical Playhouse boasts some fun twists on the original.
In a curtain speech, artistic director Jon Douglas Rake said that Rice and Webber had used bits from “Joseph” in many of their other musicals over the years, so TMP decided to throw in references to many of their other shows – such as “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera” – in this one. The changes are not in the lyrics or the story – they remain unchanged – but in staging, costuming and some of the dance moves.
Such changes are in keeping with the style and spirit of the original, which already included parodies of earlier Broadway musicals such as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (in the country song “One More Angel in Heaven”) and of pop culture figures such as rock icon Elvis Presley. In this version, we also get a glimpse of king of pop Michael Jackson, a bit of Bollywood and many other little surprises.
This show has been a crowd pleaser throughout its history because it retells a popular Bible story and because of its tongue-in-cheek mix of musical genres, from calypso to bubblegum rock to country. But it has never been one of my favorites. In comparison with Rice and Webber’s other biblical musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” it is a silly little frothy confection. But this version is enjoyable. The cast and crew do a commendable job.
Cherity Harchis is outstanding as the narrator. She has a powerful and beautiful voice and assumes the role with earnestness. And Matthew Posner, who has probably never turned in a less-than-excellent performance in his career, shines as Joseph. He sings up a storm. The ensemble, the youth ensemble, and the many actors who get brief solos in the parts of Joseph’s many brothers are all great. Almost any one of the brothers could fill a leading role competently. F. James Raasch as Rueben is particularly fun to watch and listen to on the delightful “One More Angel ...” and Mikey Dela Cruz throws himself into “Benjamin Calypso” with great energy.
On the downside, Andrew Fry seemed a bit wooden as Jacob and Potiphar, at least in part because a bad fake beard hides his facial expressions; and Steve Barnett’s over-the-top Elvis impersonation just didn’t get it. To be fair, that part is so ridiculous that hardly anybody can pull it off. The wigs worn by Joseph and Jacob also are lowlights. Otherwise, the costuming and makeup were great and added to the campy feel.
The highlight of the show for me was the “Canaan” song done with French berets, parodying a Parisian music hall singing style (think Maurice Chevalier), and a prop so funny that I can’t describe it without spoiling the fun. And there is a French-style Apache dance interlude in the middle of this number that is spellbinding, featuring Arthur Cuadros, Kristin Burch and Stephanie Graham (I’m told Graham did it with a broken bone in her hand).
TMP is known for their big production numbers pulled off with style, thanks to Rake’s direction and choreography, sets by Will Abrahamse and lighting by John Chenault. This production is no exception. So if you’re in the mood for a light and uplifting musical with lots of laughter, see “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
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