Review by Terry & Danny Gaisin
The first collaboration of Rice & Webber – “JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT” started out as a 20-minute exercise in 1968. It also established their new formula & protocols for a Broadway-type musical. i.e. Compose 1 or 2 big hit numbers; mostly pedestrian melodies; & reprises of the former –ad infinitum (think ‘Phantom’ & ‘Evita’ etc.)
‘J&TATD‘ is an almost completely-sung comic-ish operetta with only the narrator/teacher utilizing dialogue. The play opens with a Sunday School teacher & her students studying the 1st book of the old Testament. Abraham begat Isaac; who begat Esau & Jacob…
the latter then begat 12 sons, the youngest being Joseph then Benjamin. For the rest of the story, read the ‘The Book’, Genesis, v-25–51.
To successfully stage this musical effort, the demands are Herculean. A dynamic director; talented cast members; efficient crew; dedicated support labour and certainly a bunch of gifted lead performers. Mississauga’s THEATRE UNLIMITED seems to have all of the above.
The title character is portrayed by Jeremy Leo Curtis and methinks this young man has a promising potential theatre career. He can sing up a storm; utilizes his face & posture to advantage; is obviously charismatic…and in addition – movie-star handsome. He’d steal the show were it not for Carina Cautillo who is the narrator. Her voice, enunciation and projection are of professional level and it is Cautillo that makes this presentation move smoothly and continual.
Usually, the appellation ‘support cast’ is disparaging but in this play support is a key factor and the numerous members in secondary roles; and ensembles, all contribute potently. Joseph’s brothers must be both synchronized singers as well as dancers; ditto their wives. Then there’s the students/youth ensemble that are remarkable both for their performance as well as total focus. Obviously, Cawthra Park S.S. ‘s training has rubbed off!
The roles of ‘Mr. & Mrs. Potiphar’ whose effects on the hero is pivotal, are both handled with tongue-in-cheek. Michael Buchart is a bon vivant hedonist; Christina Lianos is a super tramp.
Mark Jones is Pharaoh and he’s definitely ‘the King’. Explanation: – Webber & Rice tributed a number of pop musical genres including a C&W hoedown; a Piaf-ish French bistro number; Reggae a-la Belafonte; and Jones’ take on Elvis – i.e.Rock & Roll.
The director is Callum Morris and his motive seems to be an emphasis on the intrinsic humorous aspect of the tale. Exaggeration is noticeable throughout the play but is never hammy. The blocking; tempi; and accent seems to never ignore making the evening a pleasure for the audience. Even some details, such as musical director Jan Stapleton‘s single glove add a comedic instance. Choreography is by Erin Noble and all of the numbers are successful though some are rather intricate. The fun-sized stage-rear projections add atmosphere to both period & locale.
Audiences will be almost awestruck by the myriad costumes by Linda Amos. Alas, the final two arias are presented with the cast in white tee shirts painted with a large heart, probably underscoring love and optimism; certainly traditional Jewish traits. The fully & colourfully costumed on-stage cast for the reprise of ‘Any Dream Will Do’ would have been a perfect photo op! Critics usually ignore the producers (unless the play is “The Producers”) but one can only imagine the amount and challenges that Michael Buchert & Lisa Goodmurphy faced in staging ‘Joseph’.
Community Theatre categorically runs from Church basement amateurism to a fully professional effort. JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING etc. is definitely in the latter construct. The play runs until Jan. 28th and given the ‘Sold Out’ opening night, I’d suggest ordering tickets ASAP!