When I heard that the Beck Center was doing yet another production of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, I thought, “Why? It’s been done by almost every community theatre and high school in the area. What can they do that’s different?”
Well, I was wrong. The Beck production is JOSEPH-new. JOSEPH-joyous. The show features Martin Céspedes’ creative choreography, glorious voices, Céspedes’ dynamic choreography, artistic lighting, Céspedes’ engrossing choreography, inventive music arrangements, Céspedes’ imaginative choreograph, attractive and usable sets, a fun and well-trained children’s chorus, and terrific leads. Oh, did I mention Céspedes’ ingenious choreography?
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice in their teen years. The story line is based on the story of Joseph from the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Genesis. It was never planned to be a full scale production. In 1968 it was presented as a 15-minute pop cantata at Colet Court School in London. It eventually was developed into a full-blown creation. The show has an infectious score, highlighted by “Joseph’s Dreams,” ”Joseph’s Coat,” “Jacob and Sons,” and “Go Go Go Joseph.”
It is ironic that the show has no script. There are no spoken lines, no pre-conceived concept. It’s a song-after-song show which has been done by more than 20,000 schools and amateur theatre groups, making it one of the most produced shows in the musical theatre genre. Each production is unique, though there are some concepts which most shows follow. Beck’s production breaks the “usual” mold.
One of Beck’s keys to success is the over-the-top concept developed by director Scott Spence, Céspedes’ choreography, and musical director Larry Goodpaster’s creative take on the score. Songs sound fresh and different and the visual elements are exciting. Trad Burns’ lighting seems choreographed as it emphasizes the music and changes colors and intensities to fit the moods. The children’s chorus, instead of sitting around and doing little other than “look cute,” are completely integrated into the action. Céspedes has incorporated mass movements which includes gymnastics, the swim, calypso, break dancing, Rondeau, the twist, the cowboy two-step and the hoedown to fit the music and create well-designed stage images.
Alison Garrigan’s costumes, including the technicolor coat which explodes to allow the children’s chorus to make Joseph the center of a maypole dance, are visually engrossing.
The cast is universally strong. Connor O’Brien displays a powerful voice in the role of Joseph. Though he could have been more emotionally engaging, he more than makes up for it through his singing. His “Close Every Door” was one of the show’s highlights. Tricia Tanguy creates a fine Narrator persona and has a strong and melodic singing voice. O’Brien and Tanguy’s “Any Dream Will Do” clearly set the tone of the production. Josh Rhett Noble is Elvis-right as The Pharaoh. His “Song of the King” delighted the audience. The chorus showcases excellent blending.
Show highlights included the fanciful, “Those Canaan Days” and “Benjamin Calypso.” The appreciative audience greeted the ending with strong applause and were treated to a dynamic “Mega Mix” curtain call.
CAPSULE JUDGMENT: You may have seen JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT before, but you’ve never seen it in the format of the Beck’s MUST SEE production. Take the whole family and enjoy!
Roy Berko, who is a life-long Clevelander, is a Renaissance man. Believing the line in Robert Frost’s poem “Road Not Taken,” each time he comes to a fork in the road, he has taken the path less traveled. He holds degrees, thought the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. His present roles, besides husband and grandfather, are professor, crisis counselor, author and entertainment reviewer… Read Roy Berko’s complete bio here