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Maine State Music Theatre's JOSEPH & THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT Explodes with Color, Energy, and Joy

Second Main Stage Production Takes Pickard Theater by Storm.

Maine State Music Theatre's JOSEPH & THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT Explodes with Color, Energy, and Joy

Maine State Music Theatre's second main stage production, perennial favorite, JOSEPH & THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, takes the Pickard stage by storm, exploding with color, energy, and sheer irrepressible joy. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's early collaboration based on the Book of Genesis has as its central metaphor the coat of many colors, and like that kaleidoscopic garment, the show itself is a rich, eclectic tapestry that weaves together musical and choreographic genres, ancient and modern sensibilities, and perhaps best of all in this production - a diverse and deeply talented cast that is beautiful to behold.

JOSEPH was Lloyd Webber and Rice's first hit, and the show has been staged in a wide array of styles since its initial outing in 1968. After all these years, the score still has a pulsating appeal, and the lyrics retain a freshness and insouciance that occasionally stops the listener in his tracks.

The vision that Director/Choreographer Alex Sanchez (Assistant Choreographer Taylor Lane) serves up at MSMT has an astonishing freshness, exuberance, and childlike purity. Sanchez, who makes his MSMT debut with this production (after triumphing on Broadway this Spring with PARADISE SQUARE), grounds his storytelling and characters in Genesis, but grafts onto the Biblical a vividly modern vocabulary of movement and motivation. Just as Lloyd Webber's musical is sung through in a continuum of motion and flow, so, too, is Sanchez's expressive musical staging which adds a dimension of the visual to the aural narrative. Sanchez sets a brisk pace and designs his acrobatic and athletic choreography with counterpoint and contrast in mind. His dances make use of a broad vocabulary from jazz and modern to ballet, folk, and cabaret - sometimes all combined in one number such as the breathless and breathtaking hoedown.

Music Director Jason Wetzel (Assistant Music Director Ruchir Khazanchi) leads the nine-person orchestra in an ebullient, multi-textured performance in which the upbeat moments set off the quieter ones, such as Joseph's two heart wrenching ballads.

Maine State Music Theatre's JOSEPH & THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT Explodes with Color, Energy, and Joy The visual production is bold, with touches of wit and glamour. Scenic designer William James Mohney has created a unit set consisting of a pair of staircases above two revolving doors whose iconography changes with the locale. There is a two-dimensional, storybook feel to the look that superimposes modern on ancient. Clever, sometimes whimsical props such as the chariot or Jacob's goat add to the tongue-in-cheek tone. Annaliese Caudle's lighting bathes this environment with rich color and imbues it with a kinetic frisson. Her palette ranges from wispy pastels to saturated hues that vividly mark locale and mood changes. Shannon Slaton's sound design is electric and exciting, all the while it is balanced between pit and singers. Costume Designer Katie Dowse creates a wardrobe that combines period silhouettes with eye-catching contemporary fabrics, textures, and accessories with clever wigs by Kevin S. Foster II. Her pièce de résistance is the technicolor dreamcoat - a quilted patchwork sewn from fabrics used in other MSMT productions over the years - so that it has visual and symbolic resonance. Production Stage Manager Mark Johnson presides with authority.

The twenty-two-person cast is bound together by an extraordinary chemistry and ensemble spirit. The "world" is represented on this stage with an exciting assemblage of ethnicities and ages, and Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark is to be lauded for finding the depth and diversity he has for this production and, indeed, for this 2022 season.

In the title role, Jordan Alexander brings both sweetness and substance, and he makes the arc of Joseph's life from naïve boy to compassionate man believable. His two ballads - "Close Every Door" and "Any Dream Will Do" - are highlights sung with palpable emotion and an incisive way with text, and the final reconciliation scene goes straight to the heart. As the Narrator, who breaks the fourth wall and repeatedly brings the audience into the play, Alyssa Anani is a mesmerizing presence who moves with feline grace and sings with both crystalline sparkle and powerful belt.

A robust-voiced Blake Hammond plays the aging patriarch Jacob with empathy and then showcases his own versatility by giving us a foolish, clueless, Potiphar. Jeff Max gleefully channels Elvis in an endearingly funny portrayal of the Pharaoh, and his "Song of the King" is the appropriate showstopper it was designed to be.

Each of the brothers delivers an incisively drawn and sung characterization. As Levi, Chad Takeda gets to stand out in the dazzling country western inspired "One More Angel" and the ensuing hoedown. Kyle Laing takes center stage as Simeon for a brilliant, satiric take on the Piaf/Montand-styled French chanson, "Those Canaan Days." At this performance, Preston Karp (Swing) stepped in with confidence for Brian Padgett as the oldest brother Reuben and then returned as the ill-fated Baker in the second act. Austin Phillips endows the youngest sibling, Benjamin, with an innocence and vulnerability that wins Joseph's compassion. Wilbur Clyde Beaton II as Judah delivers the catchy, swinging "Benjamin Calypso" with charm. Jonathan Bryant as Asher treats the audience to some spectacular tumbling. Jorge Guerra as Zebulon, Austin Iovanna as Gad, Diego Cortes as Dan, Ron King as Napthali (and later as the rescued Butler), and Alex Joseph Stewart (also Dance Captain) as Isaacar all bring their considerable vocal and dance talents to the roles. Taylor Lane, who also serves as Dance Captain, proves a seductive Mrs. Potiphar, with Courtney Blackmun, Lina Rose Lee, and Taylor Quick adding feminine allure, lovely vocal harmonies, and stunning dancing as the wives. Rounding out the ensemble as the invaluable Swings are Brooke Taylor Cottrell and Joshua Bellamy.

Maine State Music Theatre's JOSEPH & THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT Explodes with Color, Energy, and Joy As this super-talented, hyper-energized band of triple threats launches into the final Megamix that brings JOSEPH to its pulsating conclusion, the audience seems drawn into the vortex...clapping, cheering, some singing, all standing in joyful tribute. And yet, amid the whirlwind of overt emotion, one senses a strange serenity deep within. As rousing a musical as JOSEPH is, at its core is a message as ancient as the Biblical source and as timely as the present. It is an affirmation, as Joseph and the Narrator sing in the Prologue, of the belief that humankind has the power to make dreams come true - "if you think it, want it, dream it, then it's real/You are what you feel" - and is a message - passionately delivered by this company - of love and acceptance, faith, family, and forgiveness.

JOSEPH & THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT runs from June 29-July 16, 2022, at MSMT at the Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus, 1 Bath Rd., Brunswick, ME www.msmt.org 207-725-8769

Photo Credit: MSMT, Jared Morneau, Photographer




From This Author - Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold

Born and raised in the metropolitan New York area, Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold took her degrees at Sarah Lawrence College and Fairleigh Dickinson University. She began her career as a teacher... (read more about this author)


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