Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was first produced at a school in London as a 15-minute pop cantata in 1968 and is now the most produced play in America every year. The director of the current production at the Warner, the very talented Foster Evans Reese, has performed in a cast of Joseph four times and has directed it twice. He therefore has worked with six Josephs and writes that "all are different and special in their own way. That is the fun of [the show]. It tells a great biblical story about family and forgiveness all while giving you the opportunity to make it your own." Mr. Reese has certainly succeeded in doing just that.
Executive Director John Bonanni and Production Head Sharon A. Wilcox ran to the mainstage after addressing the crowd at the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre's performance of Curtains (for which I was unable to get a ticket last weekend but I heard was wonderful.) They thanked the audience for their understanding and for supporting this show that was added to the schedule at the last minute (at the request of a patron) and put together at "lightening speed." Ms. Wilcox proclaimed Joseph to be her favorite show ever, and it showed in the wonderful performance that began when they left the stage.
The score is "an engaging cornucopia of musical styles, from country-western and calypso to bubble-gum pop and rock 'n' roll; there is something for everyone to enjoy. I even noticed one musical riff that was perhaps a precursor to a piece in Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, a beloved score that I have memorized. Under the deft direction of Musical Director Dan Porri, adults and children alike sang in excellent harmony. The small band was allowed out of the pit and sat onstage on a highly raised platform. I was unable to see the musicians well from the second row seat that I purchased online, but I could see the back of Mr. Porri as he conducted the talented musicians, which included my former student Mark Wilcox on guitar and alto sax and Beckie Wallace on keyboards.
The adult members of this surprisingly small cast were, without exception spectacular. Some may argue that this show was written for children and should be presented with only children in the cast. I certainly enjoyed the production I saw at Blessed Sacrament School which included children of various ages. However, using adult actors for the principal roles elevated it to a wonderful new dimension. Of course it almost goes without saying that the dream choir of children was both colorful and adorable. They ranged in age and ability and were put to just the right amount of use. Among the young rainbow-shirted singer/dancers was Michael Meyer (Annie) and Maple Hill School grads Nyomie and Destiny Butler
In the important role of the Narrator, Alyssa Fontana is as wonderful as she always is. Her clear soprano voice is a joy to listen to, but she can belt as well as anyone when there is a need. John Chenkus is convincing as the father of many named Jacob as well as Potiphar. John Quinn (Gypsy) is one of the Joseph's brothers, but really shines as the Elvis-like Pharoah. The brother's wives also covered other roles and included many talented singer/dancers like Amy Ferrarotti, Katie Brunetto, Meredith Porri and Jamie Weisberg.
The gentlemen in the roles of Joseph's many brothers deserve a special mention. John Quinn, Marcello Sousa, Richard Damaso, Michael Dikegoros, Michael Eck, Peter Hannon, Bret Basaillon, James Barber, Joel Orelup, Jean-Paul Henares, Kyrell Clemons rocked it. Each and every one of them kept up with their many roles and clearly were having so much fun. Mr. Damaso (The King and I) and Mr. Dikegoros (in his Warner debut) were excellent as the butler and the baker respectively and Mr. Basaillon sang the lead in the French-tinted "Those Canaan Days" to the hilt. Cheers to one and all.
Which leaves only the amazing Joseph of the uber talented Moses Beckett (credits too many to mention.) Mr. Beckett hails from Naugatuck and is a lawyer by day. There is nothing on stage that this young man doesn't do well, but here he brings his charming onstage presence to a new level. He is also very easy on the eyes in his beautiful costumes. He owns the stage when he is on it, and the huge Warner stage is just the right size for him.
Mr. Reese has staged the show with the eye of a choreographer and the results are impressive. I could never have kept up with the challenging choreography, but it was a joy to watch this amazing cast dance their hearts out. My favorite part was definitely the final recap entitled "The Joseph Megamix."
The beautiful backdrop of an Egyptian desert that actually hang in front of the set was painted by Tracy Rowe. The abundant costumes were designed by Aurora Montenero assisted by Renee Purdy. The requisite rainbow coat for Joseph was stunning, but so was the rest of the shiny apparel. I liked that the Narrator got to change her outfit several times throughout the show, and I won't spoil the final scene for the reader, but I will say that I thought the costume choices for the finale were superb. There were a few sound glitches on opening night which were quickly corrected.
To quote Mr. Bonanni, this musical truly has a "family-friendly storyline, universal themes and a captivating score" that "is an exceptional introduction to theatre for young people seeking expression of the culture in their hearts." I wholeheartedly recommend taking the family to see this shining production at the Warner. I know that it is a bit of a drive to Torrington, but I can assure you that it will be worth the trip to share this show with the young (and even older) people in your life.
Joseph runs through next weekend. Go, go, go GO see it!
Preview of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat