Theater Review: ‘Joseph’ amazing at The Pennsylvania Playhouse
There are lots of superlatives in this theater review of The Pennsylvania Playhouse production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” because it is a standout in every category, from its multicolored set, stunning costumes and intricate choreography, to its uniformly talented cast of 30. The musical continues June 7-9 and June 14-16 at the Playhouse.
Based on the Biblical tale of “the coat of many colors,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was the first musical performed publicly by the songwriting duo of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Sir Timothy Rice. It is a sung-through musical with almost no spoken dialogue. Instead, the Narrator, sung enthusiastically by Rebecca Pieper in the Playhouse production, tells Joseph’s story in song as it unfolds.
This is director and choreographer Colette Boudreaux’s first directorial stint at the Playhouse. During the June 1 performance seen for this review, her management of the complex timing of the show was remarkable. Her design of the virtually non-stop dancing and stage movements is highly inventive. It is some of the best dancing seen on the Playhouse stage in recent years.
The story begins with the Narrator introducing Joseph (Andrew Mark Schaffer), known for interpreting dreams and making predictions, including that he will one day rule over his brothers. When given a coat of many colors by his father Jacob, Joseph’s 11 brothers become jealous. They also fear that Joseph’s dream may come true, so they sell him into slavery in Egypt.
Schaffer gives a solid performance throughout as Joseph, and is riveting in his solo, “Close Every Door,” in the jail scene.
Joseph’s brothers may be vindictive, but they are all gifted singers and dancers. Brother Simeon (Sebastian Paff) is particularly impressive when he sings his lie to Jacob that Joseph is dead in “One More Angel in Heaven.” Later, Reuben (Peter Anderson) sings his regrets for having deceived Jacob in another applause-worthy number, “Those Canaan Days.”
There is much more to the story, of course, and to the fine cast. There is Joseph’s vengeful Egyptian master Potiphar (Dean Tshudy), his flirtatious wife Mrs. Potiphar (Victoria Scialfa), the fortunate butler (Deven Windisch) and the misfortunate baker (Connor Roberts).
Joseph eventually meets and impresses the “Poor, Poor Pharaoh” (John Andreadis), who is more Elvis than Ramses, with a lot of bump and grind thrown in.
The brothers’ wives and other backup singing and dancing are provided by a fine-tuned ensemble of 12 mostly young performers.
The set and lighting design by Brett Oliveira and Kristen Wettstein work perfectly together. Part of the functional stage is covered with multicolored rectangular risers towered over upstage by pairs of columns representing a temple. The columns frame painted panels cleverly inserted to indicate scene changes from Joseph’s countryside, to the desert, to the pyramids of Egypt. Colored gels produce lighting in keeping with the Technicolor theme.
Mary Catherine Bracali has designed a multitude of visually exciting costumes. Highlights include the Pharaoh’s court scene with its black-costumed courtiers reminiscent of Bob Fosse and “All that Jazz.” The ensemble’s gold garb and headdresses are spectacular
This is a musical that is as amazing as any Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Tickets: Pennsylvania Playhouse Box Office, 390 Illick’s Mill Road, Bethlehem; paplayhouse.org; 610-865-1192