MURRAY — According to the Really Useful Company, the company that owns the rights to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, as of 2008 there have been over 20,000 amateur and school productions of this musical mounted in the U.S. I have often joked it is not really summer until you see a production of Joseph somewhere in Utah because the show is extremely popular for community theatre in this state. It is easy to see why that would be. It has a family friendly script, the ability to have simple sets and props, and opportunities for many community members, including children, to take part. As I sat in the audience waiting for the show to begin, I could tell there were a lot of excited people waiting to see this show. When the overture began, many audience members starting whispering about which songs were their personal favorites.
Murray City certainly took advantage of the local talent in order to put together a fine production. There were several things I truly enjoyed, which actually is saying a lot, because I confess that I have never been a huge fan of Joseph. I did discover something about the musical yesterday, however. I truly think this is a show that is better served by a community than a professional production. The professional productions that I have seen usually center the show around some star (such as Donny Osmond) and then figure that person will carry the show. The difference I saw with Murray was that they chose to pay equal attention to many parts of the show, making it a more overall entertaining evening.
One thing I want to commend is actually the program. The people at the Murray City Arts council chose to allow even the children in the children’s chorus to have little bios in the program, and I think as a young child, that matters a lot. I saw a lot of proud parents and grandparents finding their children’s names in print. I also love it when people show their personality in their bios, such as Chase Gruver, who plays Napthtali. Many actors wait forever to play their dream role, and I am glad it happened for you!
The children’s chorus was quite solid, and as they came on the stage, I was impressed with them from the very first song. I also enjoyed that they participated throughout the show with choreography, as well as interaction with the narrators.
As is common in many community productions, this production chose to have more than one narrator. I understand the reasoning behind this, though I had never seen a production with four narrators before. The four narrators in this production were Aimee Ritchie, Becky Davis, Kjersti Parkes, and Makayla Stowell. There were a few things I really enjoyed about having more than one narrator, specifically the different harmonies that were added when the four were singing together. I also liked the fact that the director, Karyn Tucker, had noticed the different personalities of the narrators, and used them to sing specific lines that fit their personalities. One moment in particular was when one narrator was singing about Joseph’s brothers attacking a passing goat. I was so impressed with how she got into the moment. There are downsides to having many different narrators. One being that of course people are going to compare and pick their favorites. Another downside for a reviewer is that if you are not familiar with the performers, you will not be able to credit people properly. I actually wandered through the cast after the show until I found someone who informed me that my personal favorite happened to be Parkes. Her voice was strong, and she had a great deal or animation. I loved every time it was her turn to sing, because it was very apparent that she took the charge to tell this story, and did it with ease and competence.
I also would like to commend the choreographer, Tiffany Thomas. I do not ever remember attending a production of Joseph and thinking, “Wow, what great choreography!” Thomas made a lot of interesting choices, and I felt that they were pulled off well. She worked hard to make sure the dances matched the different music styles, which is important in a show like Joseph, that incorporates such diverse styles. In particular I was impressed with “Those Canaan Days” because I actually had never before considered it a strong dance number.
When speaking of choreography, I also have to take a moment to commend each and every one the actors playing Joseph’s brothers. Usually my least favorite songs in Joseph are the songs that the brothers perform. However, this was not the case with Murray’s production. In fact, the song I enjoyed the most last night is usually a song I dread, “One More Angel in Heaven.” The brothers had perfect comedic timing, and the staging was very impressive. I found myself laughing loudly, and becoming very surprised by all the choices made to entertain the audience in that number. I actually found myself excited every time the brothers came on the stage, wondering what they would do next. They were well rehearsed, and worked well together.
Joseph was played by Cameron K. Boyle, and he did a fine job. He has a smooth, strong voice, and carried a bit of cocky cheesiness that most audiences have come to expect from Joseph. I did truly enjoy when he performed “Close Every Door,” a song that takes a great deal of skill to pull off properly. I confess, though, that Boyle was not the strongest point of the show. But this isn’t because he portrayed his role poorly. Rather, it is because the rest of the cast was so strong.
I also want to mention that Tammy Huefner’s costume designs were quite fun, which made for a more entertaining show. The choice of costuming for the curtain call “megamix” was especially unique and impressive.
Overall, this was quite an enjoyable evening. The Murray Amphitheater is a great venue, and Joseph is a show that Utah families will continue to enjoy for years to come, especially if produced the way that the Murray Arts Council does it.