By CJ Williams
Directed and Choreographed by Susan M. Chebookjian, based on original Choreography by Anthony Van Laast. Lighting Design by David Wilson. Set Design by Peter Colao and Richard Schreiber. Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez. Presented by Reagle Music Theatre at 617 Lexington St, Waltham through June 18.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is Broadway-theater fare in unexpectedly Beantown-local affordability – and the Broadway musical is put on to amazing effect at the Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham. For all its crowd-pleasing choruses, and a cast that could sing and dance down Carnegie Hall, “Dreamcoat” nonetheless pulls a nice undercurrent of depth as well.
Revived in technicolor by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s pop-rock musical score, Joseph’s ancient Bible story of betrayal, faith, and family ties is almost as ugly in some respects as the story of Cain and Abel. After all, Joseph’s 11 elder brothers beat him, steal his special coat, and throw him into a well out of jealousy – before thinking better of it and selling him into slavery.
If that isn’t harrowing enough, Joseph becomes the mark of his new master’s salacious wife, who when he won’t go to bed with her, shrieks, rips part of his tunic off, and then claims he assaulted her. Since no one believes the word of a Hebrew slave boy over the Master’s wife, Joseph’s is slung into prison to rot.
What great fare for a pop-rock, psychedelic Broadway musical! But no, it actually is. In Webber’s music, Tim Rice’s lyrics, and Reagle’s keen staging, you get the pain through the altogether entertaining show biz blowout of a musical performed by professionals clearly having a blast, and the humor of the contrast between ‘70’s neon sweats and futuristic headwear with the setting of ancient Israel and Egypt. (The costume designer clearly had a blast as well, playing with delineating the chorus from main cast, and segmenting story transitions, with ancient tunics here, and moonboots and neon there.)
One of the highlights of this production is, indeed, its cast – especially Pharoah, and the Narrator, Ayla Brown (American Idol alum) who sings a winsome accompaniment to Joseph’s hard knocks and surprising blessings throughout. Pharaoh, played by Andrew Giordano, simply sings the house down in the rock-n-roll number, channeling Elvis for all he’s got. And he had the littler audience members as enthralled and giggling as the older ones (who actually knew what his style referenced).
But as much of a high point and highlight as the cast is the choreography. Without the high-kicking energy of the dance in each musical number, the music – and the enthusiasm of the cast – simply would not have come through the same way.
I’d like to close by saying as Dreamcoat winds down, it never loses its brisk pace, and as it draws to an end, it seems to pull up abruptly rather than slow down. The depth remains, however, and you, theater-goer — be you veteran, window-shopper, or the smallest member of a family, will find the emotional notes first introduced resolved. For as Joseph’s spine-tingling lament when he’s tossed into prison foreshadows in its chorus, No child of Israel is ever alone. Neither is he abandoned without a good dose of humor and fun – if he’s in the “Dreamcoat”. For more info, go to: http://www.reaglemusictheatre.org/