OGDEN — Having grown up in Utah and being involved in the theatre community, I often joke that it is not truly summer in Utah unless I have seen a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Tim Rice (lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music). So as I walked into the production at the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville, I was expecting to see the same type of production that I have seen many times.
Thanks to some clever twists by director and choreographer Alisha Hall, this production of Joseph was just different enough to be more entertaining, but not alienating. Before the production started, it was explained that the “real” cast went on strike, and the evening’s performance was going to be performed by the stage hands, ushers, and concession workers. The most amusing part about this is that I am pretty sure that half the audience, including myself, feels like they could get up and perform a production of Joseph without much notice. Additionally, without giving too much away, I will say a joke at the end finally explained to me the long Joseph curtain call that I have laughed at since I first saw it as a child. In this production, besides the new unexpected take, I also enjoyed the costume design by Shelly Pace and the lighting design by Derek Raynor.
A note about the Hopebox Theatre. It was founded as not only a community theatre, but an organization that donates much of its proceeds to different members of the community who are going through treatment for cancer. One nice touch that they announce before the show starts is that whoever is the recipient of the show’s proceeds is honored in the program, and their favorite color is represented in the costuming, set, and lighting. I really appreciated the teal touches to honor the recipient and her struggle.
In this production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Mollee Steele played one of the most important roles—the narrator. Steele has a beautiful voice, and was able to be a strong story teller and move through the different genres of song with ease. Joseph, played by Daylen Bills, had some very strong moments, but it was also evident that he was having a rough vocal night. The role of Joseph requires a great deal of range, and it can be daunting to handle that role with ease. As a team, the brothers of Joseph all played their parts well. A few standouts were young Benjamin, played by Nathan Eliason. Eliason had an endearing charm that was evident especially in the song “Those Canaan Days.” Another favorite was Judah, played by Cody Eisenbarth; I loved his fun interpretation of the upbeat “Benjamin Calypso.”
I was also pleased with the performance of Justin Stanford as Pharaoh and the ensemble during “Song of the King”, a number which added a lot of fun to the production. The stage at the Hopebox is small, and Hall, had a difficult task in trying to balance the large cast with the small space. For the most part it worked well, and Hall had a good command of space utilization. However, there were a few numbers that were perhaps a bit too crowded and added a bit of confusion.
Overall, I was very impressed to see some new life brought into this show frequently produced Utah favorite. I appreciated the company’s ability to look for a way to have fun and try new things rather than stick to producing a conventional version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. That is a risk, especially with well-known shows, and I feel that this choice did pay off. Finally, I also really appreciate seeing the theatrical community in my area work together not only to provide entertainment but to also provide benefits to those in need.