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Before the snow started to fall, I made it to the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul on Friday night to see the Ordway's new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1968 musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Anthony Fedorov, a runner-up to Carrie Underwood in the fourth season of American Idol, portrays Joseph. I am not a fan of American Idol, but I can see why Fedorov did so well—he has a very strong singing voice. His acting talent leaves something to be desired, but since this is such a campy production the questionable acting fits right in. Jennifer Paz, as the Narrator, is really the star of this show. She is the one who introduces the audience to the story and moves things along throughout the show. She is on stage for almost the entire production. When she is not singing, she is reacting to the action and keeping us engaged. Paz has a wonderful voice and a strong stage presence.
|joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat, presented through january 2 at the ordway center for the performing arts. for tickets and information, see ordway.org.|
The rest of the cast in the Ordway's production of Joseph are almost all local talent. As the program notes observe, we are all fortunate to live in a community with such an abundance of artistic talent. T. Mychael Rambo, known by many for his work at the Penumbra in Black Nativity, moved over to the Ordway this year to portray both Jacob and Potiphar. In addition to the other cast members, 41 children from local schools constitute the children's choir which is one of the trademarks of this show.
The challenge for James Rocco, the producing artistic director of the Ordway, was to give this production a fresh look, knowing that most of the show's likely audience have probably seen this show at least once. Rocco plays up the show's genesis in 1960s pop culture, using vibrant color in both the costumes and the set. The result is a setting that truly fits a show that takes a story directly from the Bible and tells it using wonderful music and dance numbers, witty lines, and 20th century references. The most obvious such reference is when Pharaoh (Stewart Gregory) takes on the persona of Elvis to relay his crazy dream to Joseph, the interpreter of dreams. While Gregory had the Elvis hair and his costuming was perfect, I felt his voice and characterization could have been stronger. I did find Fedorov's long blond hair distracting, but the program does remind audience members that though the dark-haired Donny Osmond was the most famous Joseph, in the first Broadway production Joseph was a blond.
I have probably seen a dozen different productions of Joseph over the years—everything from high school and college productions to a youth performance group production to Donny Osmond himself performing the role of Joseph in the touring Broadway production. I have never been disappointed, so I went on Friday knowing that I would enjoy whatever was presented, and I did. The staging was simple but imaginative. Sets were changed easily from the deserts of Canaan to Pharoah's throne room. My favorite was the switch from the prison setting with Joseph giving up hope (Fedorov's rendition of "Close Every Door" was amazing) to the upbeat setting for "Go, Go, Go, Joseph." There are prison bars across the back of the stage that turn into neon lights in yellows, oranges, and reds to match the costumes of the ensemble during this production.
The ensemble of actors who portray the 11 brothers are all very strong. In particular, I enjoyed Joel Liestman as Reuben with his country rendition of "One More Angel in Heaven," and Jared Tanner, as Napthali, singing "Those Canaan Days."
Joseph runs at the Ordway through January 2 and is a thoroughly enjoyable family show. When you are looking for a break from one more rendition of "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree," go and see Joseph. This show will have you doing the calypso around the palm trees.
|This production is featured in the Daily Planet's complete guide to holiday theater. Throughout the holiday season, the guide will be updated with links to new Daily Planet reviews—so you'll know who's been naughty and who's been nice.|