Monday, June 15, 2009

review of *Joseph/Dreamcoat* at CdA

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a pop-rock-country-disco-doo-wop-reggae hodgepodge. For no reason at all, Joseph's brothers pop up sometimes in cowboy hats, sometimes in berets. And sometimes they walk like an Egyptian.
But that's the childlike fun of a show illuminating the Genesis story of a son with a mystical air who is assumed to have been killed until he takes on the sins of his brothers, rises from the dead and is reunited with his father.
You’ve heard that story before? The Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater production (through June 27) reinvigorates it with a fresh staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music. Because of engaging performances by Krystle Armstrong as the Narrator and Steven Booth in the title role — along with some find-the-comedy-wherever-he-can direction by Roger Welch, and backed by strong creative elements — the CdA Joseph is kicky good fun.
Two particular strengths are Michael Wasileksi's choreography and John Gallegos' lighting design.
Dancers tap and twirl and angle their elbows in vectors toward the sky. They change hands and do-si-do in a square dance. They form a wedding gantlet, do the Frug, and lift the lascivious Mrs. Potiphar right over Joseph’s cowering torso.
Meanwhile, disco bulbs flash and shafts of light enclose Joseph in a jail cell. There’s even a strobe effect for a goat sacrifice.
Welch’s direction seeks out the goofy bits in an already goofy musical. Snake puppets join Joseph when he’s thrown in a well, then make an unexpected appearance elsewhere onstage. A goat rolls out on wheels. Camels (one hump, two legs) skitter and sing.
It all helps speed along a brisk 40-minute first act. Best of all, Welch has borrowed 55 kids from the recent Christian Youth Theater-Spokane production of Joseph, seating them in bleachers flanking the action. So what if, at the top of Act Two, the kids in the choir couldn’t synchronize their cutesy knee-dips? They looked like happy little prairie dogs, and it only added to the fun.
So did Armstrong as the Narrator — engaging the kids in the Prologue, performing comic bits with sunglasses, mai-tais and a Bugs Bunny carrot. At a couple of junctures, Welch just isolates Armstrong in a spotlight and lets her voice reach out and caress the audience. Her warm, clear tone was worth showcasing.
For his part, Booth sells the goody-goody tactlessness of Joseph, who’s blind to the possibility that his brothers might not be his biggest fans. Booth appears earnest, almost all-American, while running around in what he calls his “little Egyptian skirt.” He can even look forbidding. And any doubts about his vocal range are dispersed at the end of “Close Every Door” when he belts out “For we have been promised / A land of our own.” It’s an engaging performance.

There are other highlights — the accompaniment of Steven Dahlke’s 11-piece orchestra, particularly during the French café mood of “Those Canaan Days,” and the way the jiggly hips of James Lane as Pharaoh Elvis seemed to do his thinking for him. But this Joseph isn’t flawless. As good as Gallegos’ lighting scheme usually is, at times actors strolled into dead spots. For some of Tim Rice’s rapid-fire lyrics, diction — and the sound system — faltered. Unlike the other-musical-genre songs, which got visual set-ups to prepare the transition, the reggae number (“Benjamin Calypso”) seemed to come out of nowhere.
But soon after, the automated disco lights swirl out over us, and we too become part of the mega-mix. When every door seems closed and all you’re hoping for is a better life, “Any Dream” indeed will do. Along with varying its musical genres, Coeur d’Alene’s Joseph presents a mishmash of moods from serious to silly. It’s Lord Webber’s cornucopia full o’ fun.

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At June 29, 2009 10:26 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

serious Bobo u need to learn something about dance it was a trainwreck!

At July 03, 2009 10:46 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

1.Narrator thinking more about how she appears then telling a story.Her vocal quality was at times like chalk on a chalk board.She has a strong voice but not right for this singing role.Needs to work on not mugging.
2.Joseph gave a solid performance but considering all the hardship he endures it is rather implausible that not one hair is out of place and he resembles an add for the best little boys haircut.
3.The Brothers perfomances are the highlight of the evening Cameron Lewis steals the show.
4.The coreography was uninspired and boring.
5.The children were honest and fresh a lesson many of the principles should have taken note of.
6.The set was effective and at times the lighting was very creative.
7.The dirctor should take note that a picture only takes on meaning, irrigardless of it's appearance, when the audience takes the time to explore what the artist is trying to convey.

At July 03, 2009 4:39 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with all 7 points above, but would go further with the choreography. Uninspired and boring is putting it mildly at best. And the mega-mix at the end was misguided, uninteresting and a major let-down at the end of a Ok production.


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