CENTERVILLE — Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is an old musical. The story is thousands of years old, and at over 50 years old, the lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber are old by musical theatre standards. It is performed frequently and keeps Utah audiences returning again and again. One might question if any new colors could be sewn onto that old coat, but director Shelby Ferrin’s production at the Centerpoint Legacy Theatre spins a new yarn that makes the story feel fresh and offers a fun night of entertainment for new and returning patrons to this age-old story.
Joseph is written with a myriad of musical styles, from country to disco, with a wide variety in between. This production adds a unifying thread through each of these numbers by setting the whole play at the “Museum of History, Art and Imagination.” Set designer Truxton Moulton sets the scene beautifully with three sections of the museum that are set on turntables, and can thereby change to new scenes as the story unfolds. I loved how this strong concept in setting really impacted the way that the story was told and made the children’s choir more involved in the telling.
Acting as head curator for the children’s museum is the Narrator (played by Mckenna Kay Jensen), who starts the play by inviting the children to story time. A wax figure of Joseph is wheeled out and magically comes to life when a child hands him his coat. The concept that a child had to interact with the character to bring them and the story to life was effective and gave a beautiful consistency. Jensen’s voice was powerful and drew the children and the audience in from the beginning “Prologue” and was harmonious throughout.
Joseph was played by Matt Taylor, who has a very sonorous tenor that filled the room during “Any Dream Will Do” and “Close Every Door.” However, some of Taylor’s acting choices could have been a little stronger. In particular, the humor in his seduction scene with Potiphar’s wife (played by Allison Randall) and the drama of emotions while in jail could have been played more decisively. But Taylor’s singing voice was gorgeous, and he gives a very good performance as Joseph.
The Pharaoh’s exhibit came alive when a child took some blue suede shoes from a 50s diner display and placed them on the Pharaoh, giving him his Elvis-like flare. Jordon LeBaron is a hip-swinging, toe-taping King of all Egypt and was so much fun to watch.
This production has a very large chorus, but one standout performer was Thad Weiland as Simeon. Weiland gave a great performance during “Those Canaan Days.” The song was made even funnier when he danced the tango with a female ensemble member who gave a wonderful dance performance which Simeon could not match. So, Weiland leaned into the humor of the moment by dancing badly and was rewarded with a lot of laughs from the audience.
There were a few places where show could have improved. While music director Arianne Hellewell helped this cast sing the score on pitch, and soloists sound great individually. But the big group numbers did not always have the volume I expected with the whole cast on stage. Normally during any big musical, the chorus entering onto the stage should be a huge bump in volume and energy as they bust out huge dance numbers at top volume. But that was not the case in this Joseph. This issue was most apparent in “Go, Go, Go Joseph,” and during the song, volume and energy of the music decreased while the cast was dancing. However, I think that this will improve as the show continues its run as the cast gets more comfortable and the technical crew adjusts the sound balance of the microphones.
The other weaker element of the night was the choreography by Sunny Simkins. Joseph is usually a very heavy dance show. All of the different musical genres naturally give an opportunity for choreographers to really show off lots of styles, and various songs can feature complex small groups or big chorus numbers. Overall, Simkins leaves the show a little under choreographed. It was obvious that some of the brothers were not natural dancers and the clean, simple moves were about all some of them could handle. But numbers featuring the female ensemble like “Potiphar” and “Song of the King” were a missed opportunity to have more complicated dancing featured, instead of the same ball-changes over and over.
I did enjoy the costume design by Stephanie Bruckman. The brothers had simple additions to their basic Canaanite costumes, like cowboy hats and berets to change their scenes. One treat, however, was that Joseph’s special coat increases in extravagance throughout the show as the children’s imaginations soar until his final coat takes up half the stage for the final bow.
I absolutely loved the concept of the children’s museum and how Ferrin’s direction made the children such an interesting and integral part in telling Joseph’s story. Rather than feeling a bit like a disjointed fever dream (which the show can sometimes be), this production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat had a cohesion that made it feel fresh and interesting. With a strong Narrator and Joseph, this production of Joseph at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre is worth seeing for those new to the show, as well as those who have returned again and again for decades to this fun, catchy musical.