Chicago ‘casting auction’ set for ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’Continue reading.
Techy ‘Joseph’ turns up the dance party
‘JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT’
When: Through March 30
Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph
Info: (800) 775-2000; broadwayinchicago.com
Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission
It looked for all the world like a children’s crusade Tuesday night at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, as the latest revival of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” opened for a two-week run. For the parents of these little theatergoers — who may have arrived with memories of Donny Osmond and the longrunning 1990s-era edition of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical still dancing in their heads — there were a slew of surprises. This is a very different show, helmed by real-life husband-and-wife and “American Idol” alums Ace Young (a rather understated, unflashy Joseph) and Diana DeGarmo (crisp and engaging as the Narrator).
The musical, which began as a little pop cantata performed at a London prep school in 1968, has now been reimagined by director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who devised such wonderful movement for the Broadway musical “In the Heights.” And in a sense, he has turned “Joseph” into a big (frequently kitschy) dance party, using his ensemble as something of a substitute for the many local children’s choruses that were part of the “sit-down” Osmond production.
The changes are evident from the start. Before the show even begins we see Joseph, a typical high school kid, sleeping under a colorful quilt, with the elaborate video projections of Daniel Brodie dancing like “dreams” in his head. Soon, he is heading off to the library to research another big dreamer, his biblical namesake. The pages flip, electronic style, and then it’s the job of the Narrator to take over the story about Jacob (William Thomas Evans), the Hebrew patriarch, and his 12 sons.
Jacob’s favoritism towards “Joseph the dreamer” sparks the resentment of his 11 brothers, and eventually they sell him into slavery in Egypt, where he first wins favor with super-rich Potiphar (Evans), and is then jailed by him. Later he becomes interpreter of dreams for the Pharaoh (Ryan Williams, in full Elvis Presley mode — Memphis, Egypt easily conflates with Memphis, Tenn).
Of course, all is not going well back home, as the brothers, led by Simeon (Paul Castree is sensational), pine for “Those Canaan Days” of yore. And it is this number, midway through the second act, that finally electrifies the crowd as Blankenbuehler puts them all at a long, rectangular table and has them beat out their hunger in a sequence that easily competes with the “Food Glorious Food” number in “Oliver!”
Beowulf Boritt’s sets are “made to tour,” with tentlike curtains and playful cardboard sheep overlaid with projections for depth and commentary. Jennifer Caprio’s costumes are many and varied but a bit tacky looking.
Do the kids in the audience come away with any sense of what this show is all about? Doubtful, aside from the fact that it was full of color and pop-up beats.