OREM — Director Shawn M. Mortensen stated in his program note for Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, “I decided to tell this story the way it is written. No concept, no modern day re-creation… no crazy costumes for each number. It’s just Joseph with all the music you love, all the characters you know, and a show that is just plain fun.” Mortsensen, I just have to say well done! I loved every minute of your production of Joseph at the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Scera Shell Outdoor Theatre!
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, written by Tim Rice with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is based on the Old Testament story of Jacob and his twelve sons. Joseph, his father’s favorite son, dreams several dreams that he interprets to mean he will one day rule over his brothers. The rest of the brothers are none too pleased with Joseph and one day they sell him to some Ishmaelite’s that are passing through Canaan. The show tells about Joseph’s adventures in Egypt and is fused with a wide swath of music types from twangy country to calypso.
Before the show I was perusing the program and was intrigued by the bio for McKenna Hixson, one of two Narrators for this production. Hixon is only 16 years old and the role of The Narrator is demanding. I had high expectations for her performance and she did not disappoint. There was a weak moment near the start of the opening number, but it was fleeting and not likely to occur again now that opening night flutters are gone. I loved that she often blended into the rest of the cast, becoming a part of the story and not just telling me about it. This, however, was sometimes a challenge when I needed to know the narration, but I couldn’t distinguish her. This was not entirely a staging issue, as the main issue lay in the overall sound for the show.
Our second Narrator, Abbey Wood, was also young and fresh out of high school. This was not her first production as The Narrator and it showed in her level of confidence. She has a powerful voice and does well with stylized vocals, even though there were a few notes in her first two songs that felt strained and made my throat hurt for her. Perhaps that was due to the need for additional warming up because by her third number it no longer felt forced.
Joseph was played by Corey Morris Maile, and his program bio states that he, “loves this play so stinkin’ much,” but I didn’t need to read his bio to know that. As Joseph, he was perfectly obnoxious and delightful. I could see why Jacob loved him so much and why he got on his brothers’ nerves. Joseph seemed to be oblivious to how his brothers felt and was just excited about life.
I loved Benjamin, played by Zac Thorn, who portrayed the classic youngest child, a little bit pouty and whiney but much loved. Some favorite moments included the scene when the brothers were selling Joseph, and Benjamin kept trying to get in the thick of things as Reuben kept holding him back. Another was during the song, “Those Caanan Days” when Benjamin was getting in the scramble for food and kept being lifted up along with the food.
In a show filled with fun and high energy, I was still able to experience other emotions such as sorrow and distress. One example is the scene where Benjamin is arrested for stealing Pharaoh’s cup. Benjamin may have been the annoying little brother, but in that moment I really believed that this group of men loved their kid brother. Other delightful moments included Potiphar’s wife, played by Jennifer Wright, trying to seduce Joseph and the telling of Pharaoh’s dream Elvis style. It was a refreshing and fun take on Potiphar’s wife to have her silly, flirty, and a bit ditzy instead of overly sexy and seductive. The scene with Pharaoh, played by Tyson Wright, telling his dream really made me appreciate the director’s choice to not use crazy costumes for each number. I liked that the Pharaoh still looked like a Pharaoh but acted and was treated like the superstar Elvis. Often I think in productions of Joseph we forget that the Pharaoh is still the ruler of Egypt because the focus is on the Elvis impersonation. Wright didn’t need an Elvis costume to remind the audience who the character was based on, he used vocal style and hip movement instead.
My only complaint about this production was the sound. Often I lost the main singer to the instrumentals or chorus. This was especially the case with Pharaoh in “Song of the King,” the Narrators in the transition between “Stone the Crows” and “Those Canaan Days”, and several of the soloists in the closing number. I would have like the background parts to have been more in the background and the soloists to have been more in the foreground. I would also have liked a bit more lighting on some of the soloists and leads to help me find them, especially in the closing number. It would also have been helpful to have both Narrators in matching colors for the closing scene. I lost Hixson because her dress was a more neutral tone, that combined with the lighting, made her disappear, while Wood was in a cream color made her stand out more.
Overall, this show was fast paced, high energy, and family friendly. It’s filled with performers who love what they are doing, and that excitement is contagious. I definitely recommend seeing Scera Theatre’s performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, despite the sound issues.