BWW Reviews: Hodges & Hodges Review JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT!
Hodges and Hodges were on the scene at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts for the opening night of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. 'Joseph' is part of Broadway San Jose's current season and if you haven't been to this venue to take in a show, then you're missing something special. Their current offering stars American Idol alums (and newlyweds) Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young who were announced as the leads for the 2014 tour in March.
This Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice pop opera had its Broadway premiere in 1981, garnering 6 Tony nominations but alas, no wins. But its campy humor and over-the-top musical numbers have guaranteed its longevity as a feel good, family friendly show and it is a perennial favorite across the country.
It's a tale, not quite as old as time, but it does go back to the biblical book of Genesis. There, young Joseph lives with his father Jacob, his eleven brothers and their wives, tending sheep and dreaming dreams. In fact, Joseph is known for his dreams in which he always comes out on top over his siblings. And, since he's daddy's favorite (he even has a beautiful, one-of-a-kind coat to prove it), it seems that his dreams really do come true. This enrages his brothers and in a fit of musical comic rage, they rip up his coat of many colors and sell Joseph off into slavery. Off he goes to Egypt where he will eventually be reunited with his family after becoming second only to Pharaoh himself. Directed and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, 'Joseph' has a reimagined opening in which a modern-day Joseph dreams of futuristic sailing ships, steam engines, and even a man on the moon. While the heart of the show remains intact, the company concludes the show with an extended curtain call and concert-like performance called "Joseph Megamix." But before we jump to the end...
Nick, what were your first impressions?
The reimagined beginning with modern scenes on a projection of smoke was pretty astounding.
Linda: Yes, the billowing smoke created a magical beginning to a wonderful show.
Nick: He finally wakes up with a laptop and skyscrapers projected onto the proscenium. Dancers in hoodies join the narrator (Diana DeGarmo) on stage and the show begins. What was curious was that with all of these dreams of the future, they never come back around to this "reality" at the end of the show. It didn't come full circle, but was really cool to see.
Linda: Diana DeGarmo, who is an amazing talent, seemed constrained in this role. She can belt like nobody's business but the low notes seemed awkward and she didn't really get a chance to show off her chops until the very end in the Joseph Megamix.
Nick: She has a very pop kind of voice that I wasn't sure fit into the show, but as the musical progressed I got used to her particular flare and enjoyed her role. What did you think of Ace Young as Joseph?
Linda: What's interesting about the part of Joseph is that he doesn't really have a lot of singing time. He only has one solo and that isn't until Scene 8. But he's in most of the scenes and I'm sure the audience enjoyed Ace Young's abs for the greater part of the show! Like his bride, he's a rising star, but I have to say that in this role I found him less than believable. He was enjoyable but not dynamic. Despite his striking physique, there wasn't a smoldering sex appeal to his Joseph. But perhaps it was director Andy Blankenbuehler's decision to have Joseph seem childlike. If so, I think it was a mistake. Young's vocal talents came to the fore only at the end during the mini-concert, but his solo, which takes place in prison at Jospeh's lowest point, fell flat.
Nick: Ace Young as Joseph was adequate. His singing was good, but I didn't really feel any true emotion from him, especially during "Close Every Door" in the jail scene. It is the one true point in an otherwise campy show where I'm supposed to FEEL something. I got nothing from Young at that one point and I felt his portrayal could have had more realism than it did.
Linda: The brothers were really the heart of the show. And Blankenbuehler's choreography lit up the stage in the ensemble numbers. The best number was "Those Canaan Days," a delicious send-up of French ballads replete with wistful and mock-melancholy accordion and sung to perfection by Paul Castree and company. But when the chorus of the song prominently features the words "Raise your beret," you would think that costume designer Jennifer Caprio would have put them in berets. I mean, can you imagine watching the chimney sweeps in Mary Poppins doing the "Step-in-Time" number without their brooms? Same thing here. Apart from that small faux pas, there was nothing about this number that didn't work. It was quite simply sublime and I take off my beret to Castree and his merry band of brothers.
Nick: Paul Castree as Simeon was outstandingly funny and I want to go see the show again just so I can see that number. I laughed so hard I almost started to tear up and the choreographed plate and silverware banging on the table was a show all in itself. Blankenbuehler did a great job on this number. I was a bit confused when their father, Jacob (William Thomas Evans), came out wearing a sexy abs apron (which was never explained) but apart from that weird bit, the number was the best in the entire show and the cast should be commended.
Linda: I have to give a shutout to William Thomas Evans (Jacob/Potiphar) and Ryan Williams (Pharaoh). Evans' Potiphar with his dry humor and then sudden flash of rage when he finds Joseph in bed with his wife was a riot while Williams' Elvis Pharaoh was spot on. He had some great interactions with the audience and the joke with the servant boy hitting on him was hilarious. Did you like the choreography?
Nick: I don't think it was award winning, but it was really well done. It fit well with the theme and a lot of the movements were purposefully comical and were fun to watch. I especially loved the simple, yet effective back and forth with spears between the Egyptian guards and the brothers as they defend their youngest brother Benjamin.
Benjamin, played by Brandon Hudson was very well cast. Throughout the show I could see his timidity and his unwillingness to sell his brother into slavery as well as his absolute joy when he finds him again. It is sometimes hard to have a bit part like that and make an impact, but Hudson's portrayal was consistent throughout the show and I really felt his character had an arc however unseen it may have been amidst the rest of the show.
Linda: The scenic design (Beowulf Boritt) was minimal, perhaps to highlight the tremendous amount of projections (Daniel Brodie) used for this production. An ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors and shapes were projected on the cloth backdrops, the proscenium and on the actors whenever they were clothed in white - truly underscoring the word "Technicolor" in the title of the show.
Nick: Yes, it was colorful, inventive, beautiful, and very impressive. . . until the second act. The projector system stopped working and you were able to see how heavily the show was relying on it. Much of the blocking and choreography was based on having the images behave almost as an additional cast member and sadly the show suffered greatly without this element.
Linda: I have to hand it to the actors who kept a "show must go on" professionalism despite the technical difficulties.
Nick: All in all, a good show. If they can fix the tech issues and Young can dig deep and pull out some emotion then this show will shine.