“Some folks dream a lot—some are lucky; some are not, but if you think it, want it, dream it, then it’s real…you are what you feel” the “Narrator” advises us at the very start of “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”—Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s magnum opus that’s currently kicking off 3-D Theatrical’s thrill-packed 2016-17 season—which includes their move to a new ‘home’ at the “Cerritos Center For The Performing Arts”; before they start unpacking those boxes though, the show opened in their regular residence at “The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center” where it’s slated to play through October 9th 2016; afterward it moves onto their new Cerritos digs on October 14th. Directed by Multiple Tony Award Nominee, Marc Kudisch and Choreographed by his wife Shannon Lewis, the show sure has evolved over the years from a twenty-minute entertainment written as a holiday diversion for a parochial school back in 1968 into the Broadway blockbuster it has become. ”Here’s your chance to see it again for the first time” Executive Producer T.J. Dawson observed opening night, and in countless ways, he couldn’t be more accurate! This production has completely transfigured numerous key moments in the show breathing into it an effervescent new life and in many cases, a better, and more coherent perspective.
A fully sung-through (save for several ad-libbed lines here and there) retelling of the Old Testament Biblical tale of “Joseph”, son of Jacob (–himself the father of the twelve tribes of Israel,) this momentous and mirthful musical marked the very first collaboration between Webber and Rice, having written it as a “Cantata” to be sung by the students of the religious academy where both were teaching at the time. “Way, way back—many centuries ago, not long after the Bible began” the narrator tells us, “Jacob lived in the land of Canaan—a fine example of a family man” (he should be too—having no less than a dozen sons, each similarly introduced to us in the opening.) As any Sunday school grad can tell you, Joe was renowned for his ability to decipher dreams—and as Jacob’s favorite son, his father bestows on him the gift of a dazzling ‘coat of many colors’—the “Technicolor Dreamcoat of the title. Yet such a gift only earns him the ire and jealousy of his brothers (“Being told we’re also-rans, does not make us ‘Joseph’ fans!” they gripe;) so they secretly sell him into slavery while telling dad he was felled in an accident while out tending to his flock. Thus exiled, he even runs afoul of his new overlord:–a captain named “Potiphar” of whom we’re told, “was one of Egypt’s millionaires–having made a fortune buying shares in Pyramids”. Thrown in prison to face what looks like certain doom, instead our hero finds his true calling thanks to that strange aptitude of his for finding the hidden significance in those shadowy images that light up our minds when we’re asleep: “Strange as it seems there’s been a run of crazy dreams” the narrator croons; “and a man who could interpret could go far…could become a star!”
Working in tandem with Ms. Lewis’s widely varied (but always sensational) choreography, Director Kudisch shakes things up practically from the start where, upon the Narrator’s brief introductory prologue, Joseph enters to present his first solo of the show—the unforgettable “Any Dream Will Do”, which usually wraps up the show. Here though, its earlier placement is much more fitting given lines like “May I return to the beginning…”; directly following, (though the auspices of large screen projections which are flashed onto the rear scrim throughout) we’re transported to the world of “Genesis 37”. In fact, the lighting and those projections by Jean Yves-Tessier and Jonathan Infante respectively, each could be considered works of art in and of themselves, while “Costume Coordinator” Alexandra Johnson’s insightful selections are just as spot-on starting with the cast initially decked out entirely in pristine white, then little by little injecting vivacious colors and fanciful designs as the story demands it. Another concept that makes this story stand-out is the unique modes of music that Webber and Rice employed in order to convey the story and move the plot along. These have the brothers often performing in several kinds of both song and dance, such as in their mock lament “One More Angel In Heaven”.
Formerly a witty little tribute to “The Sons Of The Pioneers”, in this instance the song is given a clever bit of updating–performed more in the manner of Trace Atkins or Ty Herndon to gratifying (not to mention refreshing) effect, before breaking into an all-out western “Hoe-Down”. This too, allows for some spirited choreography worthy of the likes of Michael Kidd! All of this is enhanced still more thanks to the adroit country-western violin accompaniment gratis by Tina Nguyen which helps make this already ebullient chorale intermezzo all the more enjoyable. Later, the First Act closer, “Go, Go, Go Joseph” likewise builds in its strength as the imprisoned Canaanite is introduced to two servants of the Pharaoh—whose dreams he illuminates in two very different ways. For the Butler (“The Jeeves of his time”) he details how he will be forgiven and be returned to his position in the royal household; conversely, for the baker it means his end is definitely near; either way, it closes the act with a high-kicking, tambourine-shaking folk-rock styled jamboree with the entire company!
Act Two picks up in the “Court of Rameses I” as the entire cast joins together again in another awesome aggregate endeavor, as Joseph clarifies the Pharaoh’s portentous dream earning him an exulted place in the King’s court. Back in Canaan however, we learn things aren’t going so well and the brother’s Gallic lament, “Those Canaan Days” is also re-imaged with a bent more reminiscent of “Fiddler On The Roof” than its traditionally more “Parisian” tailoring. Alternately, we’re treated to some athletic Russian “Barynya” maneuvers led by Dennis Kyle as brother “Simeon”. Kyle’s way with a ballad doesn’t just make it pleasing to the ear, his expert phrasing also manages to garner the maximum comedy potential into the act as well. This is again heightened by more of Ms. Nguyen’s dramatic, (if this time differently shaded) violin underscoring which itself injects an appropriate bit of over-emotive ‘Sturm and Drang’ to an already fairly over-the-top refrain. The concluding reprise of “Any Dream Will Do”, in turn is shared effort between Joseph, the Narrator, Jacob and several younger members of the ensemble—each with vocal power that belies their tender ages; not only does it enable some terrific harmony, but it’s actually more touching and gives the song a deeper meaning: Joseph has had his ‘dream’ now he’s sharing it with the next generation of dreamers. The genuine finale is a great group accomplishment as well, which has portraits flashed against the backdrop of all the ‘other’ notable visionaries throughout history from Aristotle to Steve Jobs, before seguing into a hip-hop recounting of the show’s major themes, making for an energetic and enlivening send-off (just be sure to do as the writing on the scrim advises and “Clap Thrice”!)
As “Joseph” the man around whom all the action revolves, fresh-faced and wholesomely hard-bodied Justin Anthony Long offers a boyish, likable sort of charisma and a nice lyrical voice, which he superbly puts into the service of every line he sings, but particularly with his inductive salvo, “Any Dream Will Do”, then shortly after with the jaunty “Coat Of Many Colors”. Subsequently, he sustains an admirable intensity that he gradually allows to build during the iconic “Close Every Door To Me”, so that by the ending verses it really is something rare and wonderful to hear and behold! Charlotte Mary Wen is also a complete charmer as “The Narrator”, delivering each of her verses with a crisp and resounding clarity while dispensing some pretty potent money notes as well. She propels the show forward in a steady, genial—but never forced or insistent manner, connecting each specific plot-point or musical phrase to the next, and in the process giving the show its true form. For this reason hers is a performance that may echo in your memory—perhaps not so much for its boldness or audacity, but for the fact that it is so seamless and dexterous. Vocally, she has her moments too—first with the prologue and inaugural passages of “Jacob And Sons”, then with “Poor, Poor Joseph”, before instigating the big First Act climax, “Go, Go, Go Joseph (Joseph In Prison)”; post-intermission she also furnishes an especially strong re-launch with “The Pharaoh’s Story”. Meanwhile, although he doesn’t really appear until the last moments of Act One, Edred Utomi as “The Pharaoh” is more than worth the wait! Commonly portrayed as a glitzed-up “Elvis” wannabe who wails some good old-time ‘rock and roll’, in still another illustration of innovative thinking, Utomi’s inventive take is more akin to “James Brown”, and when he serenades us with “The Song Of The King” he doesn’t simply take center stage—he conquers it! This alternative approach to the character also allows Utomi to demonstrate some magnificent ‘Motown’ inspired moves of his own during the songs’ jazzy reprise, until practically has us eating out of his hands!
Also remarkable is Bryan Dobson who pulls double-duty as both Joseph’s father, “Jacob” and then his Egyptian “Master”, “Potiphar”. This is achieved thanks to a snappy change of costume (yes, right there on stage) wherein Dobson transforms from the old patriarch and into the more urbane Egyptian power-broker. As “Potiphar” he shines in a nifty, nimble number that hails his introduction into the plot. Backed by other ‘servants’ of his household, this up-tempo ‘ingress’ is smooth and sophisticated, suggesting a few winking homages to celebrated “Jazz Age” personas like Duke Ellington and Rudy Vallee—all while featuring some pretty fancy-stepping too! As his wife, Lauren Decierdo is a sultry, long-legged and luscious stage presence–fashioning her take on “Mrs. Potiphar” as more along the lines of Gwen Verdon or Anne Margaret (“Potiphar was cool and so fine, but his wife would never tow the line—it’s all there in Chapter 39 of Genesis” we’re told ; “Don’t believe everything you read!” she counters.) Brandon Michael Nase is also dynamic as brother “Judah”, who capably leads his ‘siblings’ in “The Benjamin Calypso”. It may come late in the second act, but thanks to Nase’s incredibly robust, invigoratingly unreserved—and decidedly operatic–rendition, this one is absolutely worth waiting for too, as he brilliantly transforms another one of the scores’ off-beat inclusions into an electrifying aria when pleading the innocence of youngest Brother Benjamin (played by Ernie Figueroa) whom Joseph has accused of stealing in order to test all his brothers’ loyalty when one of them is in need. (It also contains some excellent harmony from the female ensemble as well!) Ovation worthy also are Joseph’s ‘cell-mates”: Brady Stanley as the “Butler” and Nick Morganella as the “Baker”, who both lend needed warmth and humor to their big scene. In addition, this production employs the “Voices Of Hope”–a dulcet and thoroughly delightful children’s choir, who commendably bring a bit of sunshine and resonant luster to all the vocal goings-on. Indeed, their collective talents make this show even more of a gold-medal prize, adding as they do just the right amount of melodic ‘punctuation’ to many of the songs–and even appearing as a flock of little lambs in the opening, “Jacob And Sons”!
3-D Theatricals has once again concocted a ‘handsome, smart, fun and fast-moving’ extravaganza that’s perfect for the entire family–how you’ll love this coat of many colors (the entire show for that matter!) Having Opened on Saturday, October 1st, 2016 “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is slated to run through Sunday October 9th, at “The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center”, located at 1935 E. Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach, California. Remaining show-times are 8:00 pm Friday and Saturday, October 7th and 8th, with an additional Saturday matinée on October 8th, while Sunday’s performance on October 9th is at 2:00 pm, at which point the show transfers to “The Cerritos Center For The Performing Arts”, for nine performances starting on Friday, October 14th, 2016. Located at 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos, California, show-times for this portion of the run are Friday, October 14 and October 21 at 8:00 pm, Saturday October 15 and October 22, at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm; Sunday October 16 and 23 at 2:00 pm, with an added show on Thursday, October 20 at 7:30 pm. Tickets for both engagements can be ordered by phone at 714 589-2770, Ext. 1, Monday through Friday between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm (Pacific Standard Time) or on Saturdays between 12:00 noon and 4:00 pm; online ticketing is available by logging onto : http://www.3dtshows.org , while for the Cerritos engagement they may also be obtained at: http://www.Cerritoscenter.com . Tickets can also be purchased two hours prior to weekday and Saturday performances at both locations; and one hour prior to Sunday performances. (Group and Student discounts are available for both locations; special “Rush” tickets are also available one hour prior to select performances in Redondo Beach.)
Production Stills By Isaac James Creative (www.IsaacJamesCreative.com) Courtesy Of Michael Sterling & Associates (www.msapr.net) and “3-D Theatricals”; Special Thanks To Michael Sterling, T.J. Dawson, Daniel Dawson, Gretchen Dawson, Marc Kudisch, Shannon Lewis, And To The Cast And Crew Of “3-D Theatricals” 2016 Production Of “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” For Making This Story Possible