BWW Review: 3-D Theatricals' JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT a Glittering Spectacle
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat/lyrics by Tim Rice/ music by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber/directed by Marc Kudisch/choreographed & associate directed by Shannon Lewis/3-D Theatricals at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, Redondo Beach through October 9/at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Cerritos October 14 - 23
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 for 3-D Theatricals at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center with a totally contemporary and fresh perspective, this Joseph, under the first-time direction of Broadway veteran actor Marc Kudisch, literally leaps off the stage and jolts you to the heavens, through October 9 only.
3-D's Joseph with its smaller-scale look fits onto the Redondo stage space as if it were made to play there. Set design by Stephen Gifford based on the original design by Rick Agiletti and projection design by Jonathan Infante blend together beautifully to make the piece completely accessible. From the moment that the young man awakens and rises up, we are riveted as suddenly we are transplanted, no...zapped back to a biblical time when Joseph (Justin Anthony Long) and his father Jacob (Bryan Dobson) 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 (Jason Peter Kennedy), Simeon (Dennis Kyle), Judah (Brandon Michael Nase) and Benjamin (Ernie Figueroa), 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 receive eventual luck, as he encounters betrayal by Potiphar (also Dobson) and unexpected help from Pharaoh (Edred Utomi). The entire story is overseen by the narrator (Charlotte Mary Wen), who, like an outsider from another time and place, dressed in a virginAl White pants suit, sings the story of the characters in a totally natural way, set apart from them, looking on and touching lovingly, but not manipulating.
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 talent of first time director Marc Kudisch, who is no stranger to the Broadway musical. He was Tony-nominated for Thoroughly Modern Millie as well as 9 to 5: The Musical. Shannon Lewis, who serves as associate director also choreographs. Her 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. Wen is adorable as the narrator with her beautifully powerful voice and just the right amount of detachment. Long is a pleasure to watch, with super energy, his tightly muscled body nicely displayed. Long plays Joseph as a kind human being, and that is his forte. Utomi is a knockout as Pharaoh with his dynamic rockstar delivery. Dobson as Jacob and Potiphar is delightfully funny, 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 colorful costuming from coordinator Alexandra Johnson! When the brothers first enter the stage, it is interesting to note that Dennis Kyle playing Simeon has his own little annoyance going on, swatting mosquitos flying around him, and picking up his legs to look at his mud-covered boots in disgust. Each actor, from what I learned, was told to create a life and Kyle really stands out from the crowd.
There is a happy ending, to be sure, to this story, joyously bringing all members of the family back together in harmony, as if the ties had never been severed. Go, go, go, go, go, Joseph! It's a sweeping, exhilarating 90 minutes of fun and music from 3-D Theatricals! Bravo! There is an intermission. If you miss the show in Redondo, check the schedule and you may see it in Cerritos from the 14th to the 23rd of this month.
(photo credit: Isaac James Creative)