Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (at the Ordway, through Jan 2) tries so hard to make you love it.
First, there are the colorfully dressed children (30 at least), bouncing balls and grinning with relentless cheerfulness. Then, naturally, there’s well-miked tuneful/soulful singing. Then the 11 (!) brothers do a thigh-slapping, southern drawl inflected “One More Angel In Heaven (yee-haw!). Candle-carrying kids reappear for Joseph’s soaring prison cell aria, “Close Every Door”. There’s the Stratocaster-playing, Elvis-impersonating Pharaoh and the calypso number complete with Carmen Miranda bananas (I’m not making this up).
Plays of this size (and this expensive) always a feature a show-stopper and in this department Joseph doesn’t stint: the Act 1 ending is a huge Peter Max/Hullabaloo dance number, with day-glo bell bottoms, suspended cages, and brightly colored fluorescent lights.
In the face of this onslaught, even the Scroogiest critic has to give in and say, wow, this show is swell.
Story? There is one: the creators use the oft-told “coat of many colors” tale from the old testament. Jealous that Joseph is Dad’s favorite, the 11 (!) brothers rip off the titular coat, and sell our hapless hero into slavery in Egypt, where J wows the Pharaoh and becomes a big shot. But really, the story simply provides a frame on which are hung the rip-roaring musical numbers (the show is lavishly directed and choreographed by Ordway’s Artistic Director James A. Rocco).
And of course there’s the music. This is the first Big Success enjoyed by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice (there have been 20,000+ productions, an alarming figure). Weber and Rice employ their now-patented approach: no spoken dialogue, no developed relationships, just tune after soulful tune. Some find the music generic; that it provides terrific energy, though, is undeniable. At the end, the Ordway audience leapt to its feet to give the piece a heartfelt standing ovation.
As Joseph, American Idol champ Anthony Federov uses his muscular body and long blonde hair (long hair is de rigueur for shows like this) to excellent effect. He is a truly gifted singer. As the Narrator, Jennifer Paz sings her pixie-ish heart out. She has an odd but endearing habit of going into a crouch during emotional moments. T. Mychael Rambo, no surprise, steals the show as Jacob (J’s father) and, later, as Potiphar. The brothers, the dancing chorus, the children, all fab.
Don’t go to this expecting anything but glitzy, high-energy holiday entertainment. Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat delivers the goods.
You may want to have a look at this promotional YouTube video.
For more info on John Olive, check out his website.