Musicals at Richter

Oh, the wishes you can wish for tonight!

Joseph & The Technicolor Dreamcoat

Press Release:

Lively Amazing
Richter’s ‘Dreamcoat’ is fun family entertainment

By Chesley Plemmons
NEWS-TIMES THEATER CRITIC
2002-08-09

When you’ve just turned 20 and have a flair for writing musical comedy, as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice did, it’s not likely you’ll start your career writing sad songs.

And sad is not at all what you’d call Webber and Rice’s first collaboration, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” A merry retelling of the Biblical story about sibling rivalry run amok, it’s surprisingly buoyant despite some serious overtones.

“Joseph” is the season finale at Danbury’s Musicals at Richter and it makes for an evening the whole family can enjoy. Bright costumes to match the Technicolor title, witty scenic designs, and a well-sung performance briskly staged by directors David Roth and Kerry Long turn this minor musical into an entertainment perfectly suited to outdoor theater.

I haven’t a clue why Webber and Rice chose Biblical themes for “Joseph” and their later and darker work “Jesus Christ Superstar” rather than English comedy or collegiate satire.

“Superstar” does get much of its power from the tragedy of Jesus’ last days, but “Joseph” could easily have been about any family where brother seems pitted against brother.

In this story, Joseph is his father’s favorite, and when the old man gives him a “coat of many colors” his brothers band together and sell him into slavery in Egypt. Except for the references to the Good Book and the exotic Egyptian settings, his saga of survival and escape could have been set anywhere.

When the Pharaoh learns of Joseph’s ability to foresee the future, he is given a position of eminence just in time to rescue his brothers, who have arrived from their famine stricken homeland.

The score is a humorously anachronistic mix — the natural outpouring of a newly minted composing team bursting with ideas. Listen for musical phrases that will turn up later in “Evita” and even “Cats.”

Especially funny are the brothers’ tongue-in-cheek lament about Joseph’s purported demise, “One More Angel in Heaven”; the droll “Those Canaan Days”; and the Caribbean-flavored “Benjamin Calypso.”

As the Narrator who leads us through the story, Meredith Boak sang warmly and exuded a playful charm, and Nathan Mandracchia as Joseph was equally right as both singer and actor. He has good stage presence and his secure voice suggested an appealing range.

The actors playing the brothers were a game lot, and several had a special moment in the spotlight.

My schedule necessitated my departing just after the second-act opening, so I missed Jean-Pierre Ferragamo’s turn as the flamboyant Pharaoh. Having seen him chew the scenery most successfully in other productions, however, I’m sure he got a royal share of laughs.

I’d warrant also that Eddie Lopez, who played the gambling and dancing Bill Calhoun in Ritcher’s “Kiss Me Kate,” was the proper choice to lead the calypso number.

David Cannizaro, who did such good work in “The Grass Harp” at Square One Theater in Stratford, turns in another good supporting performance as Potiphar, Joseph’s first Egyptian master.

The role of Potiphar’s sexy wife is being played on alternate nights by Nancy Hillis and Jody Baker. Hillis was on the night I attended and she would have given the seductive Mrs. Robinson a run for her money.

Andrea Metchick’s perky choreography surfaced from time to time, and Reid Thompson’s sets, particularly the Aida-like setting for the Pharaoh’s digs, were both clever and eye-popping.

The musical direction by Don Rickenback was tempo-perfect, and for once the orchestra sounded smoothly integrated. Gone, and not missed by me, were the brass instruments here that never seem to be on key.

Though the shows don’t begin until summer sundown, 8:30 p.m., “Joseph” is not a long show. If you’re using Musicals at Richter as a beginner’s course in theater for your kids, you’ll all be in bed at a reasonable hour.

  • “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” Performances are tonight, Saturday and Sunday and next weekend at 8:30 p.m. at Musicals at Richter, Richter Arts Center, 100 Aunt Hack Road, Danbury.

    Tickets are $15; $12 for seniors, $10 for students and children; call the box office at (203) 748-6873 or visit www.musicalsatrichter.com.

    The grounds open at 7:15 for picnicking. Lawn chairs may be rented if reserved in advance.

copyright © 2001 by The News-Times
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