For all his successes, Andrew Lloyd Webber is a composer whose work divides
critics and audiences alike. One of his earlier shows, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, fairly explodes with spectacle and excitement.
Recognized now for his mega-hits Cats, Evita, and Phantom of the Opera, Webber (along with lyricist Tim Rice) had his first taste of popularity as the creator of Joseph, a family-friendly piece, now featured onstage at the Encore.
The musical follows the Biblical tale of Joseph (Kevin Rose), the favored son of Jacob (Mike Szymanski), who is given a coat of many colors and is immediately the envy of his hoard of conniving brothers.
Kevin Rose, a New York-based actor, is highly appealing in his performance as the title role, blending a natural charisma with touching humanity. He is supported by a few notables in the cast, particularly Szymanski as his father, Jacob.
Szymanski conveys genuine fatherly affection, leading to a brief but touching moment between Joseph and Jacob near the end of the show.
Jon-Erik Goldberg and Sebastian Gerstner display well-honed dancing skills, with Gerstner also humorously taking on the Elvis-inspired rendition of the Pharaoh.
As with every revival, particularly of a well-known work, the challenge is to make it different from the rest. This production succeeds in some ways, whereas in others it seems too close to last season’s production of Godspell.
Director Barbara Cullen splits the role of the narrator, traditionally a solo role, into three parts, divided among members of the local pop-country group “Sir3n” (Megan Casey, Madison Deadman, and Bryana Dorfman). This works exceptionally well when the ladies sing their parts in harmony, though the solos prove a bit uneven.
Moreover, an opportunity was missed to take full advantage of the multiple levels in the set, which would have provided the narrators (and the rest of the ensemble) with more varied and interesting staging.
One scene, particularly from one of Joseph’s brothers, proves to be more distracting than humorous, though the nature of the show itself is over the top. But there are also some delightful touches of cleverness in the choreography, and the company as a whole conveys a genuine sense of enthusiasm. Audiences seem to respond in kind.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs now through March 3. For tickets, call the Encore’s box office at 734-A268-6200.