Review: JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT at Arizona Broadway Theatre

This dazzling productions runs through November 4th at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria, AZ.

By: Oct. 01, 2023
Review: JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT at Arizona Broadway Theatre

Guest Contributor David Appleford returns to the pages of BroadwayWorld with this illuminating and upbeat review of Arizona Broadway Theatre’s production of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT.

It was originally billed on Broadway during the seventies as the ‘follow-up’ to Jesus Christ Superstar, but that was the hype. The order of things is considerably different.

What began in the late sixties as a short musical piece for the choir of a London high school lasting no more than fifteen minutes has over the years developed into a full-blown London and Broadway musical.  JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice when they were both teenagers – Lloyd Webber was only nineteen, Rice had just turned twenty-two – is now playing at the Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria until November 4, and it’s simply dazzling.

That fifteen-minute original sixties score remains, but it was in ‘91 when the show went through a major overhaul. The original score was given a shot of steroids to beef up lengthy dance sequences in the middle of songs that were never previously there. Rice’s witty lyrics were adjusted and tweaked. Webber’s musical themes that echoed Superstar were removed (including, believe it or not, that famous Superstar fanfare), new songs were added, the closing song, Any Dream Will Do, was moved from the end to the beginning with a shorter reprise at the conclusion, and the whole thing was re-invented, ready for an opening at the famous London Palladium. What began as a short high-school concert for parents was essentially padded twenty years later into something that could justify Palladium seat prices. 

By being aware of the show’s history and its humble beginnings, watching ABT's outstanding new production, directed by Ken Urso who, according to his notes in the theatre's program, has a long history with the show, audiences can better appreciate just how far the musical has developed.

Unlike Superstar, where Lloyd Webber’s score was rock-infused throughout, JOSEPH is pure pop. Like the crazy quilt of colors and assorted materials that make up Joseph’s infamous coat, the show is an oddball patchwork of musical styles all thrown together to make one lively piece of musical theatre that is as bizarrely eccentric as it is funny.

In the middle of the deserts of Canaan, One More Angel in Heaven, sung by the ensemble of brothers, becomes an old-fashioned, American-styled country and western number.  Those Canaan Days, also by the brothers, is a French ballad full of sadness and remorse, complete with comical French accents, and Benjamin Calypso, performed with great humor by Stone Matthews Snowden, is exactly as the title suggests, a Jamaican calypso. 

There’s even a scene-stealing Elvis-styled rock 'n roll sequence sung by Pharoah (a grand, perfectly over-the-top Noah A Lyon) who, of course, is known simply as The King, while the whole show culminates with a large-scale, disco/nightclub pounding JOSEPH Megamix that revisits every song in the musical.  It’s presented with a continuous hand-clapping, pulsating beat that was originally introduced in the ‘91 revival to not only pad the London Palladium production by a further ten minutes but was also used as a hit single on British radio to help promote the show. 

ABT has gathered a strong cast of musical theatre talents to present Joseph’s tale, including Joseph himself, played by Andrew Natale Ruggieri. Curiously, while Joseph may be the title character, the role has only two solos, the catchy Any Dream Will Do, which was also released as a UK single to promote the ‘91 Palladium production, and the emotionally charged Close Every Door sung from behind the bars of a prison cell, which, during the performance that this reviewer saw, brought the house down, and deservedly so.

Supported by the non-stop energy of an outstanding ensemble, all of whom appear to be forever changing from one costume into another, the whole cast makes for a surprisingly thrilling musical theatrical experience that is over all too quickly. However, the one performer you’ll remember the most after exiting the house is Jazmin Noel Moehring as the show’s narrator. In a role originally written for a male voice, but, once again, altered for that ‘91 production, Moehring has the most difficult and demanding vocals of all which she handles masterfully, including one all-out moment of rock that sounds as though she’s channeling Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan as he sounded on the original Superstar concept double-album, plus she’s on stage for practically the whole production, either setting the scene or responding to the action.

When Broadway sent the last national touring production of JOSEPH to the Valley, it cut its single most important element, and it made all the difference to both the look and the sound of the show: the children’s choir. Considering the musical began as a fifteen-minute piece for a London high school, the whole thing was always intended for youthful voices to be heard throughout.   Without them, the production had a musical-sounding void it could never overcome. Even the regionally local 2017 production of JOSEPH at Gilbert’s Hale Centre Theatre omitted casting children, though oddly, that production was also missing Any Dream Will Do as the title character’s opening song, relegating it to the shortened reprise at the end, which never made sense. 

ABT, however, has not only cast a full ensemble of children but as you’ll see in the theatre’s program, there are two full casts of young performers who make up the children’s choir. They’re designated as either the Red Cast or the Yellow Cast, appearing alongside the professional adults for alternate performances. Those young voices, not to mention their continuous presence on stage as they observe the action, are really what makes this Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice score soar.

However, the real stars of this Peoria production are the ones you don’t see. Jamie Hohendorf-Parnell’s scene design, highlighted by Bret Reese’s kaleidoscopic array of lighting, is a continual, eye-popping wealth of visuals, beginning with a present-day museum full of historical artifacts encased in glass booths for exhibition. Each artifact will eventually play a role during the oncoming story, including Joseph's coat, a pyramid, prison-cell shackles, and, just for the heck of it, a full-bodied, stuffed, two-humped camel.

But it’s when the narrator begins her tale to the children that the theatrical magic begins. The museum set pulls apart, revealing a large LED screen upstage where a regular backcloth would normally be.  The clarity of the scene-setting images projected from the screen is startling. It's from this moment that Tamara Wright's glittering costume designs and Chris Zizzo's wigs of all shapes and sizes come into play, backed by the clarity of Jesse Worley’s sound design and the presentation of the musically recorded performance tracks, provided by Mark 4Man Music.

And it’s here where special mention has to go to both the show’s music director, Mark Foreman, and choreographer Lynzee Foreman. While the final word of any production is down to a show’s director, in this ABT production, truly, this husband-and-wife team is the real backbone to everything you hear and see. As music director and arranger, Mark has coached good voices to sound like great ones – the roaring, ensemble harmonies are like glorious ear candy. Plus, Lynzee's choreography, like the overall score, is a mixed bag of energetic choreographed set pieces nicely reflecting the differing styles of the songs. There are even a couple of slinky Bob Fosse moves incorporated into the Potiphar sequence.

In the end, the whole affair is so gloriously infectious it won’t matter how many times the chorus of each number is repeated. With this ABT production, you may find yourself wanting to hear the whole score, including the Megamix, one more time.

Arizona Broadway Theatre ~ https://azbroadway.org/ ~ 7701 W. Paradise Lane,, Peoria, AZ ~ 623-776-8400



Next On Stage


RELATED STORIES - Phoenix

1
THE PROM Comes to The Historic Stagebrush Theatre in December Photo
THE PROM Comes to The Historic Stagebrush Theatre in December

Greasepaint Presents THE PROM next month. Performances run December 8-17, 2023.

2
LEDISI Comes To Chandler Center For The Arts April 12 Photo
LEDISI Comes To Chandler Center For The Arts April 12

LEDISI is set to perform at Chandler Center for the Arts on April 12. Don't miss this incredible concert experience!

3
Student Blog: 2023 Jimmy Award Nominee Denver Dickenson Jr. on Defying Expectations and Th Photo
Student Blog: 2023 Jimmy Award Nominee Denver Dickenson Jr. on Defying Expectations and Thriving with Versatility

In this interview, I got to sit down with Denver Dickenson Jr., one of my personal role models as a performer. They spent their summer in New York representing AZ at the Jimmy Awards as a nominee before moving there to pursue a BFA in Musical Theatre at Pace University. I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it.

4
ALMOST MAINE Comes to Sedonas Emerson Theater This Weekend Photo
ALMOST MAINE Comes to Sedona's Emerson Theater This Weekend

Friday, December 1, at 7 p.m. the curtain rises on Emerson Theater Collaborative's hilarious and deeply moving production of John Carini's Almost Maine.

From This Author - Herbert Paine

Herb Paine ~ Herb has served as Senior Contributing Editor and lead reviewer for BWW's Phoenix Metro Region since 2014. He has been acclaimed as BEST THEATRE CRITIC by PHOENIX magazine&#... Herbert Paine">(read more about this author)

Videos


POTUS, OR BEHIND EVERY GREAT DUMBASS ARE SEVEN WOMEN TRYING TO KEEP HIM ALIVE in Phoenix POTUS, OR BEHIND EVERY GREAT DUMBASS ARE SEVEN WOMEN TRYING TO KEEP HIM ALIVE
Stray Cat Theatre (12/01-12/16)Tracker
GLORIA! Holiday Concert and Singalong with North Valley Chorale in Phoenix GLORIA! Holiday Concert and Singalong with North Valley Chorale
Camelback Bible Church (12/03-12/03)
Choir/Vocal Jazz: A Season of Singing in Phoenix Choir/Vocal Jazz: A Season of Singing
MCC Performing Arts Center (12/04-12/04)
Broadway Bound: A Music Revue in Phoenix Broadway Bound: A Music Revue
MCC Performing Arts Center (12/02-12/02)
Everything in the Garden in Phoenix Everything in the Garden
Mesa Community College - MCC Theatre (12/01-12/09)
The Arizona Nutcracker in Phoenix The Arizona Nutcracker
Madison Center for the Arts (12/17-12/17)
I Am Playing Me - A Bridge Cabaret co-presented with ASU Kerr in Phoenix I Am Playing Me - A Bridge Cabaret co-presented with ASU Kerr
ASU Kerr (12/04-12/04)
New Guard Big Band: Hello Winter  in Phoenix New Guard Big Band: Hello Winter
MCC Performing Arts Center (12/19-12/19)
Almost Maine in Phoenix Almost Maine
Emerson Theater Collaborative (12/01-12/03)
remove in Phoenix remove
remove (4/25-2/07)
VIEW ALL SHOWS  ADD A SHOW  

Recommended For You