IVINS — Art does not exist in a vacuum. It is always influenced by the time and real world context in which it exists. As such, it is important to recognize what makes a particular performance relevant to the place and time in which it is performed. UTBA has reviewed dozens of productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat across the state. Given the rich production history of the show, I was thrilled that the opening performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins was unique and memorable in a myriad of ways. The central figure, both figuratively and literally to this performance, was musical sensation David Archuleta’s portrayal of the title character. Tuacahn, which is celebrated often for its high-end spectacle and showmanship, pulled out every stop (short of time travel to ancient Egypt) to make this production one for the ages, and the casting of Archuleta was and is important to how the production was received. 

Show closes October 20, 2022.

The show began with the stage lit in deep blues that contrasted beautifully with the mountainous red rock frame of Tuacahn’s outdoor stage, and Archuleta rising from a platform downstage left to a white hot spotlight. As he serenaded the audience into a handheld microphone with a remixed rendition of “Any Dream Will Do,” it felt like the start of a David Archuleta concert. He wore blue jeans and a leather jacket over a button down white shirt and black tie which was a contemporary break from the traditional Joseph costume outlay and brought a self-awareness of the star casting of the titular role. Similarly, at the show’s conclusion, David changed from his Canaanite costume back into the leather jacket with lining featuring the iconic coat of many colors and felt like this was not only a story about Joseph of old, but David of now. 

Archuleta and I are only about a year apart in age (don’t Google that), and so I remember his meteoric rise to stardom during my years attending a Utah high school, hearing my girlfriend fawn over him, and feeling a little brotherly envy for his musical gifts and impossible-to-detest charm. It is easy to see how young Joseph and young David have cross-overs to early stardom, as well as religious conviction that is an integral part of their success stories. It felt as though this was not only a story of Joseph’s journey of self-discovery, but for David as well. Both Joseph and David found prominence in second place — David with American Idol and Joseph with Pharaoh. And just as Joseph grapples with his god-given purpose and supernal gifts, David has been a magnetic figure as he has spoken and sung about his faith and personal identifiers. While it is hard to put my finger on each stage element beyond the costume change at the beginning and end of the show, it felt difficult to separate the stories of Joseph and David watching the show on stage. This extended to the incredible spectacle of every moment of the performance. 

At times it felt like I was watching a three-ring circus colored by the full power of Las Vegas showmanship. This is not to say the stage was needlessly busy, but rather that there was so much to look at that I sometimes found myself lost in one of several amazing performances happening all at once. I would watch one of Joseph’s brothers doing one thing, and my wife watching with me would point to another doing something I wished I had seen more of. Every single actor on stage was dancing with incredible technique and energy, even in the night’s oppressive 100 degree heat. Actors flew across the stage on high rigging, two massive draft horses pulled Joseph’s golden chariot, Potiphar and his dancers arrived in a stretch limo, and the stilt-walking Ishmalites who purchased Joseph led a live camel across the stage. Potipher’s Wife (played by Kara Carlson) performed a lengthy and jaw-dropping sequence of dancing in hanging silks forty feet in the air as a metaphor for her seduction of Joseph. Her skill, more than my projected acrophobia, took my breath away as she masterfully navigated the fabric like a spider in her web.

I normally adore stage lighting, given my experience doing that professionally, but I was so overwhelmed by the other eye-grabbing staging elements that I hardly noticed Cory Pattak’s pointed mood lighting. Instead, I was enthralled by Steven Royal’s video boards that included rock-concert live filming of Archleta singing, hilariously incorporated TikToks (search for @jdreams), and mesmerizing depth of prisoners stuck in grids like Archuleta in Adam Koch’s on-stage prison. The prison sequence after Joseph is wrongfully jailed was powerful, as Archuleta mournfully lamented doors being closed, yet heralded Joseph’s unyielding faith that better things were to come. 

Each moment of the show was given thoughtful consideration by director Michael Heitzman, choreographer Robbie Roby and the entire design team. In a particularly tender bit of staging at the end of “Close Every Door to Me,” a guard furtively sneaks Joseph a much needed cup of water as he whispers “Hey, Joseph, you’re not beaten yet!” I was also filled with joy to watch a dejected Archuleta soaring across the stage with golden angel wings during the riotous and riveting “One More Angel in Heaven.”

The show is full of Equity actors who bring such masterful craft to the production. Swing Ian Dominguez Ball (playing Gad in this performance) matched the chemistry and choreography of the  other brothers. Rendell Debose’s resonant timbre and vivid facial expressions made him a first-rate Judah. And I do not know that I have ever seen or heard a more captivating Narrator than Katie LaMark. Her voice exuded power and emotion as she sang along with the pop style of the musical, and she has natural grace as a mover and performer. I would be thrilled to see her perform again and again. Fortunately, I will be reviewing this production again in September, and there is so much more to write about, including the strong leads, potent designs, and wonderful live musical direction that strengthened Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s music and Tim Rice‘s lyrics.

As a nice bonus at the end, the audience got a preview of the Pioneer Day festivities connected to the following night’s show, and while not every performance will include the nightcap of fireworks the opening night provided, the whole run of Tuacahn’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat should include a marvelous treat for all theatergoers. Although some of the tickets are in the price range of a Potipher, the amount of surplus enjoyment in this production will last audience members seven years — and you don’t need to dream about corn or cows to know that. 

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays various dates and times through October 20 (with David Archuleta in the lead role through September 3) at the Tuacahn Amphitheater (1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins). Tickets are $32-108. For more information, visit taucahn.org.

This review is generously supported by a grant from the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.