SALT LAKE CITY — The most reviewed play by UTBA, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (directed by Tanner J. Christensen) is playing a brief weekend run in a concert version at the Eccles Theatre as part of the “Live at the Eccles” season. Like many Utahns, this musical holds a distinct memory of being one of the first musicals I ever saw as a child, and it has persisted as a personal favorite. Even though I have not seen the show in many years, I can recall each musical number written by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice to near perfection. A musical retelling of the biblical story of Joseph, this production of Joseph stars many notable Utah performers and the One Voice Children’s Choir as the choral ensemble.
The talent on stage is spectacular and befits the Eccles stage in both theatrical and vocal ability, but the production’s simple technical and staging elements are ill-suited for the overall size of the Eccles venue and audience’s expectations for productions there. The “in concert” subtitle honestly indicates the depth of spectacle to expect. The overall presentation leans far more into a “pop concert” variation than a fully rendered Broadway musical with intricate sets, costumes, and details. Audience members should expect to attend a pop concert with the setlist being the score of Joseph…Dreamcoat. The production is developed beyond basic standing microphones, but much less than fully staged production. The central scenic feature of the set was a four-tiered stage with the live orchestra present to the side, and the One Voice Children’s choir in the rear stage on choral risers. The tiered stage is well used throughout the production to create movement and dimension, particularly with the larger cast.
In this concert version of Joseph…Dreamcoat to the stage, Casey Elliott of the musical group GENTRI stars as Joseph. Elliott’s performance of Joseph as Jacob’s favorite son, is delightfully charming and showcases Elliott’s vocal abilities. Elliott gives a tremendous performance, particularly in the solo showcase of “Close Every Door.” The role of the Narrator is filled by Lexi Walker, who brings great energy and talent to this central role in the musical. As a feature in nearly every number, Walker brings individual vocal inflections and choices that make the performance unique and thoroughly demonstrate Walker’s talent as a vocalist and performer.
In another featured role is Shaun Johnson as Pharaoh, who brings talent as a social media comedian to the role of the King of Egypt à la Elvis Presley. Johnson’s performance in “Song of a King” fully embodies Elvis Presley’s rock and roll and brings humor to the parody. Johnson takes a moment to ad lib during the number highlighting his strengths as a performer and a standup comedian.
The other sons of Jacob, the brothers, form the most entertaining and versatile group in a variety of numbers. “Those Canaan Days” is a highlight due to the soloist’s performance and the remaining brothers in giving the song richness in musicality and theatrical humor with terrific harmony. The lyrics of the song are well delivered, and these performers truly relish in showing how the brothers regret the present famine and, perhaps, the loss of Joseph. The dance sequence during the number performed by McCade Matheson as Gad and an uncredited female ensemble member was a highlight of the production, thanks to the choreography by Eliza Lucero.
Considering this a Joseph-lite performance, the technical and design elements are simply effective, rather than extravagant or ambitious. Lighting design by Shadow Mountain Productions used mood lighting and light beams that furthered the appearance of a concert. One smart choice in lighting was to use a vertical beam to create the jail cell bars trapping Joseph in his imprisonment. The costume design (from an uncredited designer) incorporates individual contemporary clothing in a technicolor palette. The choir is in white, the ensemble in black shimmery dancewear, Potiphar’s home in black, Pharaoh’s court in gold, the Narrator in pink, the brothers are in individual shades throughout the rainbow, Jacob in brown, and Joseph dressed in white wears the requisite vibrant technicolor coat uniting them all. The props (also uncredited) incorporated into the production all included delightful modern reference spins, such as bag meals from a popular fast-food chain. Each modern “name drop” in props was a charming inclusion for the aesthetic of this contemporary set production.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Concert offers its audience the musical’s familiar charm and humor. The production is an excellent vehicle for the featured performers in the cast, and their fans will enjoy seeing them in these classic leading roles. The unique combination of such talented performers is a joy to watch in their revelry, and it is fun to watch them bring an old favorite to life on the Eccles stage. However, as a whole, the production feels muted in this modified “in Concert” performance and may be better suited for an outdoor amphitheater or a smaller indoor venue