Olney Theatre Center Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatBy Laura & Mike Clark • Mar 3rd, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Olney Theatre Center
Olney Mainstage, Olney, MD
Through March 20th
Reviewed February 26th, 2011
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is taken from the story from the Old Testament about a dreamer’s rise from common shepherd to second in command of the Egyptian agricultural industry.
What an absolutely fabulous production, with wonderful singing, incredible choreography that was executed terrifically. From our seats the sound was pretty easy to understand. Add in an interesting and different set concept and you had a great experience.
As you enter the theater, you see a child’s bedroom with many bookshelves, a bed and a chest of drawers. A nanny, Alesha Gamble serving as the Narrator, tells a story to a frightened Boy. The story is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, loosely based on Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-50. The story telling device in this musical may seem overly sentimental, but it worked for a lighthearted show like Joseph, despite the serious themes it touches upon briefly (like murder, slavery, adultery, and jealousy).
As her powerful voice rang out, whoosh! One of the most interesting and surprising scene reveals we’ve seen occurred. Up went the bookshelves and the bedroom and forward came some palm trees and wooden scaffolds on which the brothers, wives, and servants were carefully positioned. The reveal’s execution was so smooth that there was an audible gasp from the audience seated near us. Despite her limited interaction with the cast of the story she was “telling,” Gamble kept the tale moving right along. Her strong voice could be heard well, although after the show we did hear a few complaints that the sound was muddy in a few seating areas. She was always focused on what was happening on stage, which did leave her facing away from the audience for much of the time.
Alan Wiggins played Joseph, the lad who was the victim of his brother’s jealousy. Young and shy with perhaps a dose of pride (which leadeth to a fall) Wiggins was full of sincerity and talent. His strong voice, like Gamble’s, carried out to the audience. His best solo was probably “Close Every Door,” which he performed with a lot of emotion and heart.
This show did have some great comedic moments. None was funnier than the Pharoah himself played by Russell Sunday. Portraying Pharoah the King as Elvis Presley is expected in any production of Joseph. But I’ve never seen him done as Fat Elvis. Sunday hammed up the situation, even his fourth wall quip with a member of the audience was funny. This haughty arrogance for whatever reason came across as amusing and fun.
The most complex dance routine was in the first act. Choreographer Wendy Seyb created a complex series of unique moves to correspond with the colors of Joseph’s Coat. Even the Boy (played alternately by Sean Silvia and TJ Langston) got in on the action a few times. Like Gamble, Silva was also engaging with the happenings on stage.
Costume Designer Ivania Stack kept things pretty close to traditional. Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors was not the bright flashy colors as seen in past shows, but was done using ornate colors that gave Wiggins a regal look. The whole show was not drab by any means. Jacob’s brood in Canaan wore traditional browns and grays. The wealth of Egypt was seen, not only in Pharoah’s shiny white 70’s pants and coat, but also in all of Egypt’s golden glitter. Scenic Designer Eugenia Furneaux-Arends use of scaffolding on rollers made the set quite easy to move. Scene changes flowed smoothly, although at times there was a lot of movement on stage which was distracting. Lighting Designer Dan Covey made good use of the lighting, with a few dark spots, mostly on stage left or when the brothers were up on the scaffolds.
This family friendly show ran an hour and thirty minutes with no intermission, and is playing through March 23rd. A definite must see that will make your dreams come true, at least for an hour and a half.
Also note, we have two different soundtracks of Joseph playing on our Internet radio station. One is the 1974 recording; the other is the 1982 Broadway cast recording.
When I think of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I of a show as big as it’s title-splashy, flashy, big dance numbers, terrific music…it all feels epic, gigantic. And yet when I read the story-both the text of the show and the Old Testament from which it’s drawn-what strikes me is much simpler and, fundamentally, more personal. Here is the tale of a young man of great gifts, punished by those around him for having such strengths, who stays true to himself and by doing so achieves great things. It’s a powerful story we can all learn from.
I also reflect on the show’s settings, Israel and Egypt, and contemplate how the Middle East hasn’t known lasting peace in such a long time. So the concept of wartime weighs heavily on how I see the musical as well.
Ultimately, I hope we’re crafting a production of Joseph…that honors both sides of the coin-big-scale impact and earned sentiment-and that reminds us that this is, in fact, a wonderful piece of theater.
-David Hilder, Director
Photos by Stan Barouh.
- Narrator: Eleasha Gamble
- Joseph: Alan Wiggins
- Judah: Mardee Bennett
- Isaachar: Kurt Boehm
- Dan: Parker Drown
- Zebulun: LC Harden Jr.
- Asher: Vincent Kempski
- Levi: Nick Lehan
- Simeon: Ben Lurye
- Naphtali: Jeramiah Miller
- Benjamin: Andrew Sonntag
- Reuben: Stephawn Stephens
- Gad/Pharaoh: Russell Sunday
- Jacob/Potiphar: R. Scott Williams
- Mrs. Potiphar: Heather Marie Beck
- Wife: Mary Lee Adams
- Wife: Erin Driscoll
- Wife: Jamie Eaker
- Wife: Ashleigh King
- Boy: TJ Langston
- Wife: Briana Marcantoni
- Boy: Sean Silvia
- Director: David Hilder
- Musical Director/Conductor: Christopher Youstra
- Choreographer: Wendy Seyb
- Scenic Design: Eugenia Furneaux-Arends
- Costume Design: Ivania Stack
- Lighting Designer: Dan Covey
- Sound Designer: GW Rodriguez
- Stage Manager: Renee E. Yancey
- Producing Director: Brad Watkins
- Technical Director: Eric Knauss
- Company Manager: Bobby Maglaughlin
- Costume Shop Manager: Heanne Bland
- Conductor, piano, acordian: Christopher Youstra
- Piccolo, flute, oboe, saprano saxophone, alto saxophone: Patrick Plunk
- Electric guitar, mandolin, banjo: Kim Spath
- Electric Bass, upright bass, tuba: Yusef Chisholm
- Percussion: Mike Ranelli
Disclaimer: Olney Theatre Center provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6241.
Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.