BWW Reviews: Go, Go, Go JOSEPH Rocks the Pantages
Considered Andrew Lloyd Webber's first official musical in the late 60s, in spite of the fact that it really took off after Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has within itself a miraculous power to entertain and inspire...especially the young among us who dare to dream. Now onstage at the Pantages with a totally contemporary and fresh perspective, this Joseph under the direction of genius choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler really leaps off the stage and socks a punch, through June 22 only.
Starring real-life husband and wife team Ace Young (Joseph) and Diana DeGarmo (Narrator), this Joseph with its smaller-scale look fits into the huge Pantages space as if it were made to play there. Set pieces by Beowulf Boritt and video and projection design by Daniel Brodie blend together beautifully to make the piece NOW and completely accessible. From the moment that the young man awakens and rises up, glancing at his laptop, we are in 2014 and then quite suddenly transplanted, no...zapped back to a biblical time when Joseph and his father Jacob (William Thomas Evans) and his 11 brothers lived their raucously dysfunctional life. Yes, families were dysfunctional even in biblical times, so the journey backwards does not seem out of sync; in fact, it makes sense, as Reuben (Brian Golub), Simeon (Paul Castree), Judah (Will Mann) and Benjamin (Brandon Hudson), jealous of Joseph and his superior treatment by Jacob, cast him out, feigning his death. Joseph has always had a special power of being able to see into the future, an attribute that gives him the power to overcome obstacles and eventual luck, as he encounters betrayal by Potiphar (also Evans) and unexpected help from Pharaoh (Ryan Williams). The entire story is overseen by the narrator, who, as if from another time and place, like a grand pupeteer, manipulates the eclectic character mix, putting them through through their dreamlike paces.
This is a classic rock opera with no spoken dialogue, so the music has to carry the story, and that it does with styles that are amazingly varied from pop to rock (Elvis) to French (a la Jacques Brel) to calypso to disco. To keep the flow and move the plot vibrantly forward takes some pretty expert staging...so bring on the awesome talents of Andy Blankenbuehler, who made In the Heights and Bring It On! so incredibly memorable. His choreography for "Go, Go, Go Joseph" and particularly "Those Canaan Days" is nirvana, with the rhythmical ensemble in literally nonstop motion.
Within this true ensemble piece, of course, leading actors have their moments in the spotlight. DeGarmo is fantastic as the narrator with a powerful voice and just the right amount of detachment. Young is a pleasure to watch, with super energy, his tight muscular body glistening with beads of sweat and oozing joy from every pore. Williams is a knockout as Pharaoh with his perfect Elvis impersonation and blue eyeshadow emphasizing an overpowering if not ambiguous sexuality. Evans as Jacob and all the actors playing the brothers are sheer delight, as they sing and dance their way to oblivion. Let's not forget the deliciously colorul period costuming from Jennifer Caprio!
There is a happy ending, to be sure, joyously bringing all members of the family back together in harmony, as if the ties had never been severed. Go, go, go see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat unbelievably enhanced by the unique display of visual splendor, which at the core owes everything to the astounding insight of Andy Blankenbuehler and to an astonishing cast.