When I attended Casa Mañana’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” last night at Bass Hall, I entered as an amazingly preserved specimen of tabula rasa, having had no previous exposure to “Joseph” whatsoever. Not even the soundtrack. I know, I know, where have I BEEN all these years? But don’t get me wrong. I had heard of the show since I was about 8 years old, and I remember having a vague feeling of danger because I couldn’t recall the word “Technicolor” from any of my Sunday School classes. So despite the theater dork I am, I for some reason just never got around to familiarizing myself with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s enduring classic — the one he began composing at the tender age of 20.
And Casa Mañana’s version, directed/choreographed by Josh Rhodes, did not disappoint. Fun, upbeat, energized and well staged, “Joseph” was a treat for the eyes and ears. And for unborn baby girls. As in, mine. She especially enjoyed the Act II crowd-pleaser “Poor Poor Pharaoh” where Pharaoh (Manley Pope) sings center-stage as a full-out Elvis impersonator with a chorus of Egyptian-costume clad dancers swooning and falling all over themselves in 1950s-era hysterics. (This might have also been the number when a chorus member lost their trunks mid-kick and had to flee to the safety of the wings. Good well-rounded entertainment, if you ask me.)
If there’s one thing Andrew Lloyd Webber does best, it’s ending each and every song with a proverbial — and usually, very literal — bang. Since practically the whole show is sung from beginning to end, much relies on the musical movements and cues to tell the story effectively. Which they do, with impressive flow. But this show’s success also requires great staging, choreography and vocal performances to pull off the show’s score, and all three requirements were met with very little exception in Casa’s production.
Sean Palmer (Joseph) and Sarah Litzsinger (Narrator; also, incidentally, Broadway’s longest-running “Belle” from “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”) are Broadway veterans who brought the much-expected power to both lead roles. (Insert fun fact: did you know the part of the Narrator was originally written for a man?) But standouts Kevin Crewell (Simeon) and Fort Worth native Christopher Hudson Myers (Reuben) were stellar and hilarious in numbers like “Poor Poor Joseph” and “Those Canaan Days.” I commented that Sean Palmer reminded me of a young Donnie Osmond rocking a killer head of curly Middle-Eastern Fabio hair, and my friend informed me that Donnie Osmond had, in fact, played Joseph back in Toronto in the early 90s, and as it turns out, again in the movie of the same name in 1999. Palmer’s voice was like a smooth stick of butta, and he wasn’t too difficult to look at either. Just ask the 50-something woman seated next to me.
This is a great family-friendly show, if you’ve got a stomach for loincloths and the mild suggestiveness of the Potiphar’s Wife vignette. Running only about 1 hour 45 minutes, it’s short as far as Broadway goes. Nothing would be particularly scary to children under 6, and the music is, for the most part, upbeat and involving a myriad of colorful — or should I say Technicolor? — costumes. The story is recognizable from the Genesis account (if you’re particularly concerned about that), and cleverly told. Adults will get plenty of hoots as well, especially from the well placed modern day references to things like Wii, “Survivor,” Donald Trump and Facebook. All things I’m pretty sure were not in the original score, much less the biblical account. If you’ve got kids from age 6 on up, this would be a great family outing and fun “first” exposure to Broadway — if you’re the type that’s waiting for just the right show to come along for such a milestone. “Joseph” runs through July 29. Go see it.
And, on a side note, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a sleeker or more entertaining curtain call. Apparently some productions of “Joseph” integrate it into the “Megamix” finale and some do not, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s THE way to end this show. The audience left their seats a little lighter than they came in.
Even those of us who are ten months pregnant.