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THEATER REVIEW: ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’

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There are only two more chances to see the CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre’s nicely staged production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

As the ensemble cast might sing: “Go, go, go, go.”

Director Scott Hancock offers nice, fresh moments by throwing some contemporary references into this oft-performed Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical, based on the “coat of many colors” tale of Joseph and his brothers from the Bible. Who knew, say, that Joseph had an iPad?

The musical, originally written as a school project, is known for its wholesome, campy songs and mixing of musical styles. Some productions I’ve seen have tended to sink into a saccharine mush. It takes strong acting to find heart in the material, and this production doesn’t deliver it consistently. But Hancock’s peppy direction — and some nice staging twists on traditional ways of presenting the material — makes this production hum along quite nicely. I particularly like:

** The high enthusiasm level of the cast, which barrels onto the stage with lots of energy in the opening number and never lets up. (Debby Mennucci and Katie Green are credited with additional choreography.)

** The singing. Jason Munoz, as an earnest Joseph, delivers some fine vocals. So do Lucas Chandler as the Calypso soloist and Tim Fletcher as the French soloist. Kylie Briggs, who shares the role of Narrator with Lorraine Christiansen, has a very strong voice in the lower ranges, though the part is a little too high for her at times. The ensemble has some very nice vocal moments as well. (Judith Dickison is vocal director.) I’m not sure who is singing bass among the brothers in “Those Canaan Days,” for example, but it’s impressive.

** The modern references. If there’s ever a show you can get away with stuffing full of up-to-the-minute references, it’s this one. At one point the narrator gets updates via her cellphone. And when Gangnam style makes it into community theater in Clovis, it probably means it’s dead as a trend — but quite funny to witness.

** The Pharaoh number. Who can resist? Kyle Dodson, in the role — which I won’t reveal in case you still want to be surprised — tackles it with vigor. Always funny stuff.

** The costumes. Patti and Heather Karsevar deliver some great looks, from the layered desert attire of the brothers to the always amusing seven cows in “The Pharaoh’s Song.”

** The orchestra. I’ll say it every time: Live music is the best, and conductor Pete Van Der Paardt ┬ádelivers.

CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre has always had a challenge, I think, because it only does one big musical a year, and it’s tough to gear up the production infrastructure each time. I’m interested in this production almost as much in what Hancock and artistic director Chris Lang decided not to do. For example, the scenic backdrops are rented, which I think was a good call. They look great, and they keep the Mercedes Edwards stage from looking cavernous, which is important in an intimate show such as this. I greatly admire original scenic design, but sometimes the best call given the circumstances is to outsource.

The production also isn’t as dance-heavy as I’ve seen in the past. In particular, I missed the extended dance break in “One More Angel in Heaven.” Community theater can be at its weakest when it comes to challenging choreography, and I’m not sure if this was the reason for cutting this part of the show — it could be a question of which version is being used — but regardless, I’m thinking this omission turned out to be a good thing as well.

What Hancock does do, however, is work to make this production as slick and entertaining as he can. The result is a colorful “Joseph,” indeed.

Responses to "THEATER REVIEW: ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’"

Stephen says:

Took the kids to Aladdin, Jr. last night.

Big mistake. Huge.

Should’ve gone to Joseph. Wish I’d've seen this review before last night’s error.

To sum up, when the best part of a children’s show is at the end when confetti cannons shoot gold streamers and that’s the favorite part (and they get to run and collect them), that’s not good.

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