A Catalyst for Change: A Conversation with the Stars of MSMT's JOSEPH


By: Jul. 09, 2022

A Catalyst for Change: A Conversation with the Stars of MSMT's JOSEPH

"JOSEPH's ability to be done in a thousand different ways is what keeps it fresh," declares Maine State Music Theatre's Artistic Director, Curt Dale Clark. "I have heard people say they almost didn't come to see it because they had already seen it many times, and then when they did see it, they were blown away by a new fresh production."

Clark is joining the two stars of MSMT's current production, Jordan Alexander (Joseph) and Alyssa Anani(Narrator) at the second PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN panel discussion, hosted by Broadway World Maine editor, Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, on July 6 at Curtis Memorial Library to discuss with patrons the theatre's second main stage show.

For Alexander, playing Joseph is a role debut as well as an MSMT debut. He says that he has been fortunate to work with a cast that includes a number of veterans of previous JOSEPH productions - "people who have done national tours and all these performances. I benefit from their experience, fresh perspectives, the stories they bring and then I get to play with all these things and create my own version. The cast and the community MSMT creates here are amazing, and I am very grateful for that."

Anani talks about her prior experience understudying and playing the Narrator on national tour and in Japan: " I stepped into that amazing opportunity right after graduating [from Elon University]," she recalls enthusiastically. "JOSEPH is a show about resilience, hope, and continuing your dreams."

One of the remarkable aspects of MSMT's current production is its beautiful diversity, which, Clark affirms, came about intentionally. "We live in the whitest state in America, but it was my intention to make the production look as diverse as we could. I was blessed to find some amazingly talented human beings, and when they all come together on that stage, they make us look like the melting pot America actually is in 80% of the country."

The conversation turns to the actors' interpretations of their roles. "I try to bring out the inner youth and playfulness in me for Joseph," says Alexander, "and then after the Potiphar scene and being thrown in prison, I begin the growth into manhood. 'Close Every Door' is about that growth. He has been in prison many more years than the show implies, but he is able to keep his faith and belief that things will come out in the end."

Anani talks about the significance of the Narrator's being played by a woman. "Having a woman's perspective to contrast the story of Joseph's journey is important and welcoming. In our production she has a motherly, nurturing aspect that is very fresh. This is the Narrator's story, and she is using Joseph as the vessel. She shares the peaks and valleys of Joseph's journey and by the end of the show she is reliving a victory. When Joseph puts on that coat [at the end], he is putting on the dream fulfilled, the promise from the Lord. I think we can all relate to that coming out of the pandemic." Another aspect of her role that thrills Anani is the Narrator's breaking the fourth wall. "Stepping in and out of the story is exhilarating because it is always different. I can create a bond with the audience - look at somebody and talk to somebody. We want to share the message to dream, to hope."

Also making a company debut is the production's Director/Choreographer, Alex Sanchez, who came directly to Maine after his triumphant musical staging of PARADISE SQUARE on Broadway. Clark waxes eloquent in his praise for Sanchez: "I have known Alex for thirty-two years. I first met him when he played Cosmo Brown to my Don Lockwood [SINGIN' IN THE RAIN] in Chicago. He went on to have a huge career dancing on Broadway [and now directing and choreographing]. Alex had a mild history with this show - [just enough to be able to manage the tight Brunswick schedule] - but I knew I wanted something fresh and different for this production. He brings some new choreographic blood, and the dance in this show is different from anything we usually do."

Describing the experience of working with Sanchez, Anani says, "I love the heart and soul Alex puts into every pinky movement, every turn. Everything is thought out with intention, and he wants to make us actors comfortable doing the movement. We were allowed to ask questions; it was a very collaborative process. We would start every rehearsal in a circle, all taking deep breaths, eyes closed, becoming grounded, becoming one. Teamwork is a beautiful thing."

Alexander concurs about the collaborative atmosphere: "Alex was leading with his heart, and he wanted us to lead with our hearts. He wanted everyone to leave the theatre feeling moved at the reconciliation of father and son."

Anani feels the multiple styles of dance are beautifully chosen, "marrying movement to the energy of the story."

Clark observes that Sanchez's uses of eclectic dance styles breaks a number of rules. "We usually think that many styles in one show can't work, but Alex crushes the conventional wisdom in this production." Clark adds that the score is similarly eclectic: "There is a little bit of everything from Country to Calypso to anthemic numbers. I have such a good time seeing young people discover this show for the first time."

Alexander shares his interpretation of the show's two iconic ballads: "When I sing 'Any Dream Will Do' the first time, I am seeing what is going to happen but not yet sure why." In 'Close Every Door' I want to keep it defiant, not angry. Joseph is willing to go through whatever it takes, and he is proud of keeping the faith. I think that makes it so much stronger, and I am usually crying at the end. Then when I sing 'Any Dream Will Do' at the end, I am seeing my father for the first time and sharing what has happened with him and the audience."

Clark praises Alexander's take on that final ballad: "Jordan imbues it with a level of pathos that doesn't normally exist. It adds that kiss of weight to the end of the show."

Clark also talks about the design choices for the production, noting that "Color is the major element," and he singles out the coat of many colors [Katie Dowse, Costume Designer] made of a patchwork quilt of fabric used in previous MSMT shows. "With the set [William James Mohney, Set Designer], we chose to go with a sand feel and put color on top. And the lighting [Annaliese Caudle, Lighting Designer] that bathes the set is pretty special."

Asked why he chose JOSEPH for MSMT's Revival Season, Curt Dale Clark says it seems the natural next step after The SOUND OF MUSIC in "building the joy he hopes the 2022 season will impart to audiences."

Jordan Alexander sees the production as an opportunity for the audience to come away "feeling changed. We wanted people to leave the theatre feeling more like Joseph - able to dream, more empathetic, more able to forgive."

Alyssa Anani seconds those sentiments: "Returning to the theatre as we all are in 2022, I hope the story encourages the audience to dream, to reach out to someone else, to be optimistic, to hope. I see JOSEPH as a catalyst for change. We can be the light."

Photo courtesy of MSMT, Ally Collins, photographer

JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT runs at MSMT's Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus, 1 Bath Road, Brunswick, ME from June 29-July 16. www.msmt.org 207-725-8769

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