Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by Tim Rice. Directed and choreographed by Kelly Shook.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
Jennifer Bishop, David Bondrow and Rich Krakowski; photo provided
"We read the Book . . . and you come out on top."
I read the book also and I know that happy endings aren’t always so happy. In the case of this classic Biblical tale, a family is happily reunited and take up their place near the favorite son who has become a powerful force in ancient Egypt. Four hundred years later the family, now grown to over a million souls, is still in Egypt, enslaved and abused, their first-born sons slain, their lives a hell-on-earth as they struggle to survive the cruel tyrannies of the descendants of the Pharaoh who graciously took them in and gave them grain and dwellings.
But that’s history and the Mac-Haydn Theatre is presenting a joyful musical about a young boy sold into slavery by his jealous older brothers. The boy survives his own slavery and imprisonment to become a seer and a prophet and wealthy man in a foreign land where, during a famine, he is able to bring his family under his own protective wing. In this show all of this and more is accomplished to a tuneful, pastiche score embracing styles from hully-gully disco to calypso to French apache and 1960's rock.
Entirely theatrical, and through-composed with only four discernible lines of spoken dialogue, the show provides more laughter than tears and more dance steps than the Rockettes get to do at Christmas at Radio City Music Hall. Director/choreographer Kelly Shook provides her large company (25 adults and eight children) with much to do much of the time. On stage costume changes highlight the often frenetic pace of this show and Andrew Gmoser’s very effective lighting helps guide the audience through the story, focusing on individuals and providing much needed mood and a sense of time and place.
Opening night Jennifer Bishop, as the Narrator, had serious microphone trouble which threatened to bring down the first act, but the situation was rectified during the lengthy country-western song "One More Angel." Her voice, small but true and rather beautiful, lent warmth and specificity, once she could be heard over the well-orchestrated synthesizer accompaniment.
Likewise during the Pharaoh’s number "Song of the King," a dancer seemed to have had an accident, but that may have just been a joke - although it didn’t appear to be. Whether a part of the show or an incident that hopefully won’t reoccur, it was well handled by the company as one of the male chorus members carried the woman up the aisle and out of the theater. The Pharaoh, played by Jason Whitfield, was a popular addition to the company. His Elvis Impersonation was a high-point of the show.
Kellyn Uhl as Mrs. Potiphar danced up a sexual storm and Andrea Doto as the dancer in the French Apache number in the second act song "Those Canaan Days" was marvelous. The children’s chorus added immensely to this production, singing and moving in and out of the complex scenes and situations.
The star of any production of "Joseph...Dreamcoat" needs to be Joseph and at the Mac-Haydn the star of this show is genuinely the young man himself as portrayed by Rich Krakowski. Krakowski has a lovely voice and a very specific stage presence. His renditions of "Any Dream Will Do" and "Close Every Door" were moving, emotional experiences for him and for his audience.
Chris Cooke sang an effective "Those Canaan Days," and Ryan Owens was sufficiently cowboy-like in "One More Angel." Jared Jacobs and David Melendez duetted well in the "Benjamin Calypso."
The costumes were superb, designed by Jimm Halliday, and the functional set was designed by Kevin Gleason.
On a wet night in Chatham, the Mac-Haydn was definitely the place to be. I’d be willing to say that it would still have been good place to spend an hour and forty minutes had the weather been dry. There is an eleven minute curtain call in this show during which the entire company gets to reprise almost every song you think you’re going to remember when it first occurs. That was a bit excessive, but okay, it made the show into a two hour event, something to remember when you go.
Rich Krakowski and his brothers; photo provided
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays at the Mac-Haydn Theatre at 1925 Route 203 just north of Route 66 in Chatham, New York through June 21. Ticket prices range from $12 to $28. For information or reservations call the box office at 518-392-9292.