Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Andrew Lloyd Weber's track record of blockbuster musicals is well established, but back in 1968, when Weber and Tim Rice got together and created a 20-minute oratorio for children based on the Old Testament story of Joseph, Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, and the rest were just a gleam in some box office manager's eye.

Yet the seeds of success were clearly evident in that first limited-scope collaboration, and after the first full-scale production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was performed in 1973, Weber's roll began in earnest.

Photo of Scott Beyette as Joseph with his coat held by his 12 brothers
Scott Beyette as Joseph, with his coat
held by his 12 brothers
The enduring popularity of Joseph rests on a combination of good story-telling and an incredibly creative mixture of popular musical styles from every conceivable genre. But it takes a talented cast and director/choreographer to fully realize the musical's inspirational and entertainment value.

For a number of years, the Arvada Center had this combination and was rewarded with sell-out houses one holiday season after another. Now, Boulder's Dinner Theatre has come up with its own dynamite version of this classic.

What makes Boulder's Dinner Theatre's production special is newly appointed artistic director Michael J. Duran's prescient choice to return the musical to its roots and re-establish the presence of the children into the storyline.

From the opening Prologue, when the children are gathered around the Narrator, to the Finale, when Joseph re-imparts his wisdom to them, the children play a key role in defining the context and approach of the production: As with most biblical tales, the story is simple, and recounting the events for children provides a comfortable pretext for the imaginative liberties the script takes with the original specifics; also, talking with the children takes the edge off Joseph's egocentricity—instead of coming off as a braggart, extolling his virtues to the audience, Joseph establishes a certain innocence in describing his inexplicable powers of dream interpretation to the children—creating a more sympathetic protagonist, and a more powerful catharsis.

Photo of Shelly Cox-Robie as The Narrator and Scott Beyette as Joseph
Shelly Cox-Robie as
The Narrator and
Scott Beyette as Joseph
Scott Beyette is a low-key and surprisingly unassuming Joseph; he makes us feel as if Joseph's success is rooted in faith rather than individual superiority—no mean feat given the golden boy's self-aggrandizing dreams. Director Duran reinforces this spiritual choice by emphasizing Joseph's forgiveness of his brothers and his reconciliation with and respect for his father. Beyette also delivers one of the best singing performances of his career.

Shelly Cox-Robie's breathtaking vocal range and expression is exhibited to its fullest as The Narrator, drawing us into the story from the opening bars, infusing the lyrics with emotional depth and drama. She quickly establishes a visceral connection to the children and maintains this relationship throughout. This, coupled with her timely interactions with the other characters, provides the story with the cohesiveness of its original design.

Photo of Scott Beyette as Joseph with the Women's Chorus
Scott Beyette as Joseph
with the Women's Chorus
The Weber/Rice script provides a slew of entertaining moments, and depth of the company's talent is evident at every turn. The alluring women's chorus and rowdy assemblage of Jacob's sons consistently sparkle: Brian Jackson's Country & Western "One More Angel in Heaven," John Scott Clough's "Song of the King," A. K. Klempke's "Those Canaan Days," and newcomer Matthew LaFontaine's "Benjamin Calypso" are all show-stoppers.

Duran's choreography and originality shines as well: the "Potiphar" scene, which comes across as a combination of Gilbert and Sullivan and campy, gay cabaret, is a gut-busting Busby Berkeley extravaganza, rife with physical comedy and pharaonic indulgence led by Bren. Eyestone Burron and DP Perkins, with inventive and acrobatic dancing by Cindy Lawrence and the brothers.

Photo of John Scott Clough as Pharaoh
John Scott Clough
as Pharaoh
Linda Morken's costuming, for both the traditional period scenes and the flashy, stylized production numbers, is a marvel of detail and appropriate realism and fantasy, as the case may be—kudos for not overdoing Joseph's coat; Melissa Schrank's scenery is evocative, bright, and adaptable; and Neal Dunfee's orchestra handles the multifaceted score with aplomb.

Boulder's Dinner Theatre's exuberant and heartfelt Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs through June 20th. 303-449-6000.

Bob Bows


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