Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat played to near-capacity crowds at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres in 2007. This year the Chanhassen has brought back that cast for a summertime revival.
Joseph tells the familiar Bible story of Jacob and his 12 sons. Because of their jealousy, Jacob’s other 11 sons plot to get rid of Joseph (Brendan Bujold)—who is Jacob’s favorite. They sell him to traveling nomads, who take him to Egypt where he becomes a slave of Potiphar, a wealthy Egyptian (“…made my money selling pyramids!”). After being falsely accused of lusting after Potiphar’s wife and thrown in jail, Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams gets him out of jail and into the employ of the Pharoah (Keith Rice). Because of Pharoah’s dreams, Joseph knows that there are seven years of prosperity coming, followed by seven years of famine; he becomes Pharoah’s number one advisor. Eventually Joseph saves Egypt and reunites happily with his father and his brothers. The story is told entirely in song and dance with a narrator (Jodi Carmeli) who freely moves through the production, interacting with the rest of the cast.
|joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat, presented through september 26 at the chanhassen dinner theatres, 501 w. 78th st., chanhassen. for tickets ($56-$75) and information, see chanhassentheatres.com.|
The Biblical story is told through a light-hearted mix of song styles that at times borders on the ridiculous. One of my favorite scenes has Pharaoh, bearing a strong resemblance to Elvis Presley, asking Joseph to help him understand his dreams. There is also a calypso song and dance that extols the virtue of youngest son Benjamin, a Western number, and a French ballad. The action moves fast, the dancing is energetic, the costumes are colorful, and the one-line jokes are liberally interspersed throughout the songs. So much of the ensemble is on stage at any time that I found myself distracted by the various antics going on behind the main story being told. All in all it is a fun, fast-moving, entertaining show. Bujold is clearly the centerpiece of the show. His voice and his on-stage personality are perfect for this role.
The Chanhassen adds another dimension to the show by actually bring up two kids from the audience to become part of the show. As kids arrive at the theater they are given the opportunity to sign up for a drawing. The lucky two who are selected are brought on stage, costumed, and guided through the show by two young actors (Jenna LeMair and Ryan Hoffa) who not only keep an eye on their stage partners but do a great job with their own roles. In addition, the Chanhassen offers a Kids in Free discount on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings through the summer months. I was there on a Tuesday evening and there were lots of kids in the audience; the action on stage held their attention from beginning to end.
My only disappointment was the ending of the show: the director chose to shorten the finale. I may have been the only person in the audience to notice, because I have seen Joseph so many times. Usually after the final song there is an extended finale that includes a reprise of all the highlights of the show, with each performer returning to the stage. This is the first time I have seen Joseph without that conclusion. As people in the audience started standing and leaving, I had the feeling that the producers had left out the last act. I also felt that they dragged out “Those Canaan Days,” probably the weakest song in the show, for too long. Even with a 20-minute intermission that allowed the waitstaff to bring out dessert, coffee, and bills to the audience—this is dinner theater, after all—the show was over in just about two hours. I would have preferred to have a longer last scene for my dessert.
Despite this, I certainly would recommend the Chanhassen’s Joseph to anyone looking for an fast-paced, thoroughly entertaining evening. My daughter, who had only seen a high school production of Joseph before, was completely surprised by the show. As she said, “it’s so over the top that it works.” However, if you are a true Joseph fan, be warned that the show will end before you are ready to see it go.
Jean Gabler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is program director for undergraduate business programs at the University of St. Thomas.
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