BWW Review: JOSEPH AND THE A-MEH-ZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT at Casa Manana
"Amazing" is an adjective easily associated with Casa Manana's Broadway-caliber performances, especially considering their recent successes with WEST SIDE STORY, ROCK OF AGES, and notably their kick-ass apprentice production of BLOODY BLOODY Andrew Jackson. But despite a top-notch production team and an infinitely skilled cast, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT doesn't quite live up to its title.
Now, I'm not saying that JOSEPH, as written, has ever been a work of fine art. After all, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's libretto is jam-packed with clunkers like "...whatever he did he was showered with praise. If he cracked a joke then you chortled for days," not to mention 29 colors associated with the titular coat repeated ad nauseam. Sure, it's silly, but the pop score and lively dance numbers have suitably entertained hundreds of head-bopping theatregoers for almost half a century.
Flawlessly narrating Casa's production (minus some rare, poorly guided moments of theatrically-spoken song) is belttress Mia Gerachis, who is a new discovery for The Dome. With her effortless approach to Webber's insanely high female vocals, Ms. Gerachis manages both the range and mile-a-minute score better than the dozen or so ladies I've previously heard tackle the role. Whether she's mischievously weaving through the large company or singing straight out to the audience, Mia commands the stage with talent and confidence that deserves applause. She shares the stage with Tim Rogan's well-sung Joseph, who looks absolutely (get it?) perfect for the role, but is somewhat hard to appreciate due to his too-often angry expressions. All of the supporting ensemble members contribute commendable performances, but it's Brandon Michael Nase's delightful solo late in the show that leaves the most lasting impression.
Tee Scatuorchio's direction starts the show off on the wrong foot, with some (assumedly unapproved) speaking lines to justify his students-on-a-museum-field-trip concept that was only briefly acknowledged. The show that follows is seemingly a hybrid of the mid-1990's Broadway revival and the subsequent film, which utilizes the play-within-a-play device to deliver some otherwise nonsensical humor. Scatuorchio takes this a bit too far, offering endless local jokes and begging for cheap laughs...which in all fairness, the audience did seem to chortle over. It is hard to tell where the director's job diverges from choreographer Mark Myars' work, but the musical staging is overall enjoyable, even if not especially memorable.
I'm always impressed with the product Team Casa is able to construct in their lighting-speed rehearsal process, and I've learned to cut some slack if a measure of choreography arrives on stage slightly unpolished. Still, there's something about JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT that misses the mark set by the theatre's reputation. Are there applause worthy moments happening on that stage? Plenty. But there's nothing that quite elevates it above your standard dinner-theatre affair.
Also, a warning (and perhaps a note about the experience I've had recently at Casa): if you can avoid sitting being the sound board in the rear-center area (Section 7, rows M-U), the blinking lights used to the cue the engineer can get a bit distracting.
If you're interested in catching JOSEPH, you only have through Sunday, September 17th to go, go, go. Tickets and more information can be found at www.CasaManana.org.