By Abbey Rodjom
Jealousy, betrayal, famine and catchy dance numbers are an unusual bundle to present on stage at Playhouse Square’s Palace Theatre. March 4 – 16 hosted just this combination in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Originally written in the late 1960’s, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” delivers a rendition of the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors from the Book of Genesis through a myriad of quirky songs and little dialogue. Of Jacob’s twelve sons, Joseph, played by Ace Young, a former American Idol participant, was his favorite. This and his ability to interpret dreams earns him the jealousy of his brothers who fake his death and sell him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph eventually aids the Pharaoh, Ryan Williams, by correctly interpreting his dream as a prediction to a long famine and ensuring Egypt’s safety throughout these years. His starving brothers travel from their home in Canaan in search of food in Egypt where they meet Joseph and fail to recognize him as their brother. A narrator dressed in modern clothing playfully comments on and participates in the action of the musical; here this role was filled by Diana DeGarmo, who is married to Ace Young, the actor playing Joseph. Both appeared on American Idol in season 3 (2004) and season 5 (2006) respectively.
Upon entering the theatre I felt a mixture of excitement and doubt. Growing up on the 1999 VHS tape starring Donny Osmond and Maria Friedman, I had high expectations for the Playhouse’s performance – and it did not disappoint. Personality and enthusiasm was evident in every moment of this charming musical.
Songs flit between genres, from a colorful opening number to a country piece and then to an Elvis style rock n’ roll number sung by the pharaoh of Egypt himself. This musical offers a memorably comedic variety of scenes and lines. Even though I had not seen the musical for many years, I found that I could still recall most of the lyrics. Many times throughout the performance I couldn’t help chuckling about the wonderfully crafted wit of many of the songs.
The visuals were unique and aided the overall atmosphere of the musical. Upon returning home and setting up my VHS, I watched the Donny Osmond version again in all its blurry static and gaudy color glory. The same atmosphere emanated from these aged graphics as they did from the unique display I witnessed on stage earlier that day. Spotlight used during the songs about his colorful coat sent a fun vibe shooting into the audience from the first lines of “Any Dream Will Do” in the first scene to the last lines of the same song in the last scene.
Most memorable perhaps was the use of projector screens to enhance the surreal aspects of the story. At one point several women came out in long white robes. They floated about on stage, gracefully in the background before suddenly coming stage front and spreading their arms so they made one long white wall of their cloaks and shadowed faces. They acted as a screen for projections of silvery fish streaking by and sand blown pyramids and all other matter of things Joseph held in his mind that then swam through the minds of the awed audience.
“Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” is a musical that situates itself firmly in the memories of my childhood, and I can happily report that the Playhouse Square rendition did not disappoint. Now, fans hold their breath in anticipation due to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s announcement of a 2014 film adaptation.