BWW Interviews: Diana DeGarmo Dishes on JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, Playing DPAC This Week
This week, the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat comes to Durham for a weeklong gig at the Durham Performing Arts Center. In anticipation of the arrival of the Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice classic, I had the chance to speak with one of its stars, Diana DeGarmo. DeGarmo plays the narrator opposite new husband Ace Young as Joseph. We chatted about her history with Joseph..., working with her husband, reviving a classic, and what this new incarnation of the show has to offer.
As we started chatting, I asked DeGarmo (who you probably remember from the 2004 season of American Idol, in which she was runner-up) about her familiarity with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat prior to signing on to star. It turns out that the show has been a part of her life since she was very young - her first experience with Joseph... was at age 10, singing in the children's choir during a production of the show in Atlanta. Having been a fan of the show all these years, DeGarmo says of being offered the role of narrator that "when the opportunity came up, I couldn't turn it down."
While DeGarmo is talking about the process of working with the cast, creating the show, and bringing it out on the road, she beams, "I'm having a great time." Indeed, it is evident in everything she says and the ways she speaks that she truly is having a fun and fulfilling experience - her speech is overflowing with joy and a sense of accomplishment. She has nothing but wonderful things to say about all of her cast mates. She likens the first time the cast got together to the nerves of the first day of school when you're not sure who's going to be in your class and if you'll like your classmates - there's an element of suspense until you see how a cast really works together. DeGarmo uses plenty of superlative words to describe her collaborators and their level of talent, as well as their great working relationships. She says excitedly that they are "genuinely having fun."
Joseph... director Andy Blankenbuehler has made his mark on musical theater choreographing high-energy shows In the Heights, 9 to 5, and Bring It On, also directing the latter. When asked about what imprint Blankenbuehler put onto the piece, DeGarmo says that this is "definitely an Andy Blankenbuehler production" with his own style stamped on the piece. Talking choreography, she adds, "God bless the whole ensemble" for their sheer volume of hard work, as the show incorporates a lot of different dance and music styles, and the cast is a group of "well-rounded artists who do it all." DeGarmo was able to get a good glimpse of what audiences will see - she told me that "the narrator is often the last piece of the puzzle to put in when building scenes," so she got to spend some of their rehearsal time getting to watch as production numbers came together.
Of course, I asked DeGarmo about working with her husband of almost a year, Ace Young, she says that it was always part of the deal from the start that they'd work together on this production. Though they're no strangers to working together on stage - the two met while doing Hair on Broadway - the process of creating a show from the ground up is a unique one, and DeGarmo says of working with Young that it's been a great experience building this show together. She notes that it's the first time she's gotten to see Young originate a role, and she's enjoyed seeing him capitalize on the creative opportunities.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat seems to have what it takes to stand the test of time, as this revival tour comes more than 30 years after the musical debuted on Broadway. Starting with a story that's already been around for thousands of years can't hurt, but I asked DeGarmo what she thinks it as about Joseph... that's led to its staying power. "The show has stood the test of time because it's really well written," DeGarmo says, citing the music by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice. She adds that in addition to being good music, that "the music is so catchy," adding that the show is filled with songs you that "remember when you leave." DeGarmo notes that another factor in the show's longevity is that it features something for everyone, noting that even people who aren't big musical theater fans will love it. With a show like Joseph..., according to DeGarmo, each audience member will have a character they can relate to.
DeGarmo was particularly excited about the fact that the creative team "got Andrew Lloyd Weber's blessing to reimagine a few songs." While assuring long-time Joseph fans that it's still the same Joseph, she notes that some of the songs sound like ones you might hear on the radio. It's clear that this production will have something to please any audience member.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs from May 13 - 18 at the Durham Performing Arts Center. For tickets and more information, visit www.dpacnc.com.