PAYSON — Payson Community Theater has been called, “the best kept secret in Utah theater”; and for just cause. Playing to sold out audiences for their recent productions of Cats, Beauty and the Beast and last year’s production of The Wizard of Oz, plan on coming early to get a seat to this year’s show, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Once again PCT delivers an A+ production. The strength of Payson Community Theater’s interpretation comes from the details in the performing/directing and the technical coordination. This is the best production of Joseph I have ever seen performed in Utah because of this attention to details.
To tell this delightful tale of Joseph who was sold to be a slave in Egypt we have the very charismatic and vocally talented Christy Duffin as Narrator. Duffin appears to the audience in a glamorous black sequined top, black pants and dangle earrings with an up-do befitting a prom queen. Her performance was storytelling at its best because of the way she let the audience feel like they were in on what was happening on stage. The 37 member children’s choir comes on stage in white shirts and pants and colorful striped vests that match the bodice of Joseph’s amazing coat. These are the kind of details that made a beautiful picture and drew me into the story from the start. Each scene had memorable moments of vignettes that helped to tell the story. The set, which spans the 50 foot plus width of the proscenium, portrays a clear concept of an Egyptian pyramid. The two stairways from extreme left and right lead up to a platform eight feet above the ground spanning the width of the stage. Under the platform is a wall with two sliding doors that open and close to reveal a revolving floor where actors or a goat may appear. The entire effect of the stage designed by Steve Twede was very magnificent. It gave a lot of acting area with various levels that resident director, Michael Carrasco could place his 90-member cast on.
The details given to the costuming (Kristina Holley) and technical aspects of the production were commendable under the direction of technical director Richard Lindsey. Scenes like the prison scene (leading into the song “Go, Go, Go Joseph”) are good examples of Lindsey’s ability. In that scene, a combination of lighting effects and fog effectively portrayed Joseph’s cell, which was then transformed into a feast of movement and action including police lights, mirror balls, bouncing lights, a bubble machine, ’60s costumes (including belts, glasses, shoes and wigs galore). Every new scene had appropriate costume changes which aided in the telling of the story.
The cast is fantastic, whether they are shaking their booty or singing those favorite songs from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber which include “Any Dream Will Do”, “One More Angel in Heaven”, “Canaan Days” and “Song of the King.” Musical direction by Kristi Frei was outstanding as was the choreography of Katie Wiscombe. Wiscombe plays Potiphar’s wife giving a lively performance in which she danced very well. One of the stand out performances for me was Steve Poulsen as the Pharaoh. Playing the part of “the King” is a challenging one; it has to be performed with lightheartedness and plenty of hamming it up, taking full presence on stage without taking himself too seriously. I felt it was flawless and would come to see the show again just to see him perform the role.
The role of Joseph is played by Ryan Cook returning to the stage after a 15 year hiatus. His portrayal of Joseph was good; my favorite part being the tender performance of the song, “Close Every Door”. The reunion scene of Joseph and Jacob was an emotional climax with Joseph returning in his “chariot of gold” and the detail of Jacob (Chris Jensen) bending on his knees to give thanks while the crescendo of the cast sang “Jacob into Egypt.”
The only major change that could have made this performance better would be a live orchestra. I love a live orchestra with musical theater. That being said, the sound quality was perfect. I could hear every word being sung and spoken due to the professional work of sound designer/ operator, Craig Zeeman. I would have enjoyed seeing the children come on stage and participate in the big dance numbers instead of just sitting on the sides of the apron in bleacher type seating; however, with the large cast that they have it may have been problematic to bring 37 more people on and off stage affecting the flow of the show.
The production of “Joseph” is a favorite of Utah audiences. With the show running about an hour and forty-five minutes including intermission it is a great choice to bring children to or first time theater goers.