BWW Review: JOSEPH AND THE TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT at The Biz Academy Of Musical Theatre
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT has all the key ingredients for a smash hit: Andrew Lloyd Weber, Tim Rice, crazy costumes, emotional highs and lows, humor, and lessons learned. Many may even recall Donny Osmond's portrayal of Joseph, including a VHS version that perhaps graced their shelves. It has a timeless element to it, but more importantly, it's just plain fun. The Biz Academy of Musical Theatre was certain to bring that fun to the fore, and it made for a memorable evening for all.
The songs and sights of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT are familiar and beloved. It is nearly impossible to not tap your toes at least once during this production. It is nerve-wracking for any director to take on a show, but to take on a show that is iconic AND involves such a substantial cast is a huge feat. My first acclaim, therefore, must go to director Jeff Van Paris for taking on this monster of a show and doing it well. Did I mention he also choreographed it? A tremendous feat, indeed.
The first person I must applaud is the Narrator, Jessica Bartley. Few people, let alone such a key character, know how to handle technical difficulties gracefully, but she kept her performance even and unphased while her mic cut in and out. She also had the ability to project in a way that meant the audience didn't have to miss out on her excellent vocals or lose the thread of the story. And once her mic was fixed, it was a real treat to hear her range and power as a vocal performer.
The cast had quite a workout to do so many songs, and so many characters had moments when they got to shine. Rather than pick out a singular person, I will say collectively that Jacob's sons were excellent. What made them so entrancing on the stage was the awareness that they were having the time of their lives on that stage. The enthusiasm and bravado with which they embraced their scenes made them a clear highlight in scene after scene.
It doesn't seem quite fair to put small children in a show because they're always sure to pull the heartstrings, but I must confess I was completely susceptible to their charms. They were sweet, innocent, adorable, and had a decent vocal presence throughout the show. A commendation must be made to music/vocal director Linda Parr for shepherding them through the difficult task of being on time and being in tune. It definitely enhanced the show's impact.
Another individual who stood out on stage was Dane Van Paris as the Pharaoh. One of JOSEPH AND THE TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT's many charms is pop culture references, like having the Pharaoh be Elvis. It's daunting enough to be a soloist, but it is even more difficult to impersonate The King himself. Dane Van Paris threw himself into the role in a way that is sure to induce some belly-bouncing laughter.
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (which I will refer to as JOSEPH from here out) has all the markings of a great show. Lyrics are by Tim Rice and a variety of musical styles composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and I have honestly lost count of how many times I have seen this show, teched this show, or been in this show. Originally out as a concept album in 1969, JOSEPH has become one of the world's most known musicals, containing songs that have went on to become musical theatre standards such as 'Any Dream Will Do' and 'Go, Go, Go, Joseph'.
The overall theme of storytelling is rooted into the show through the presence of around twenty children in the cast, a staple in the show. They lined the on-stage staircases for the whole of the show with their angelic backtrack to the main vocals of each number. Similarly, the presence of Jessica Bartley as the Narrator supports the show along a chapter-like fashion. Bartley made her debut with theater company, The Biz Academy of Musical Theatre, in this production and gave a highly creditable performance. Alongside her, the triple threat, Henry Hartley, plays the main role of Joseph with a plentiful helping of eccentricity and flair, but with some good serious moments as well.
On the subject of numbers, there are a lot of songs in this show, with everything but a few lines of dialogue. Different most of Webber's musicals is the vast difference in styles and their accompanying dances make them thematically distinct as well. Act two offered quite an unpredictable show, highlighting choreography of every style, from country-western to calypso to rock-and-roll and everything in between. The cast's singing was also amazing, but in JOSEPH, comedy is king. At the top of my list were two numbers. The brothers and their wives perform a county song, "One More Angel in Heaven" which was hilariously performed by Jamison Hemmert. Another unbelievably funny number was "Those Canaan Days," performed by Mike Hartley.
Many technical facets of the production we saw are worth mentioning with one notable area being costuming. Almost every cast member has multiple roles, yet the wardrobe department brilliantly from several people disguised the actors from a townsperson, to a camel, to a cow. On a separate note, lighting design was good. As a former techie turned actor, when I was waiting for the show to start, I noted the number of lights positioned around the theater and was intrigued to see how they would be used. The lighting did not disappoint and certainly provided a display of... technicolor.
JOSEPH is a tremendously fast-paced show, with each act running around an hour. Each scene competes to be bigger and better than the last with the finale being the culmination. Don't miss your chance to get lost in psychedelic colors, flashing metallics, and glittery sequins at The Biz Academy of Musical Theatre's production. Performances are at Danville Community Highschool through November 30th.