Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat | Theater review
This is Joseph for the short-attention-span set: Trimmed down to just an hour, the Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences' take on the 1968 Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical moves at breakneck speed, whizzing through the ups and downs of Joseph’s life with a go-go-go feeling that doesn’t sacrifice anything from the longer production. Kids will appreciate seeing the production in this intimate theater-in-the-round, which director Matt Raftery uses with an expert touch, employing computerized lighting and clever movable set pieces to give the set both flash and simplicity.
The narrator, played by Susan Moniz, is one of those tiny women with a powerful, clear voice. In her size zilch jeans and sparkly bolero jacket, she quickly endears the audience, drawing them in with contagious energy and a conspiratorial smile. With several actors strumming guitars and one playing electric drums, the first scene takes this ancient story and brings it right into 2012.
The costumes translate as sort of Western-hipster, with everyone in jeans and most in cowboy boots—apparently, the costume director handed the cast members photos for inspiration and told them to raid their own closets. (Four female actors play brothers, which may confuse younger audience members.) Bernie Yvon, as Jacob, comes out in a Bears jacket, jeans and sneakers, a fitting interpretation of the dad as a happy-go-lucky guy who’s just slightly dense.
Joseph’s coat is studded with stripes of electric, remote controlled LED lights, eliciting predictable awe when overhead lights go out. Those cowboy duds come in handy for the boot-skootin’ version of the brothers’ so-long song to Joseph, after they leave him stranded to die. The brothers whoop it up, while the dad, whose favorite was Joseph, breaks out over-the-top tears—it goes over as funny, and it works, even if we’re wondering how Joe’s bros could be so cruel. When Joseph is sold as a slave, he winds up with Bernie Yvon’s millionaire Donald Trump look-alike. And, yes, he gets to tell Joseph “You’re fired” when he gets a little too close to the Trump’s wife. (Chuckle, groan.) The Pharoah is a Justin Bieber takeoff, whereas the original casts him as teen-angel-of-the-time, Elvis.
After each performance, the cast takes about 15 minutes for a Q&A with the audience. This production is aimed at kids, but it’s equally enjoyable for grown-ups.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through May 12. Click here for a performance schedule and to purchase tickets.