SMITHFIELD— Jospeh and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is always a staple for Utah’s community theatre and it’s understandable why. It’s relatively easy to produce, involves a large cast and is a definite crowd pleaser with its biblical based story and catchy songs by the great Andrew Lloyd Webber. I’m usually a sucker for any show that leaves me humming the songs as I leave the theatre, and this production of Joseph by the Four Seasons Theatre Company is no exception. A talented chorus, lively choreography and detailed costumes make this production so successful.
Most Utah theatre goers are probably very familiar with this show, which follows the biblical story of Jacob and his son Joseph (including the 11 other brothers). Where the creativeness of the show comes in is through the multitide of music styling by Tim Rice (lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) The duo created a show in which an ancient inspired story is told nearly entirely in song, almost making the show an operetta.
Four Seasons Theatre Company took a well loved and often produced show and did what most community productions should do with a piece of theatre like this: they produced the show how its intended to be done. Don’t put some elaborate creative spin on it. Don’t go overboard with set and costumes that then hinder the singing and acting. Their production hit all the right elements and I credit directors Kody Rash and Marissa Olson for pulling together such a successful show.
With Joseph the one element that has to be executed perfectly is the music. With such well loved and recognizable songs it is essential to have the right cast that can vocally perform the songs the way they are meant to be sung. Music director Afton Lovell (who also plays the narrator) was smart in many of her decisions. Jon Rash (who played the lead role Jospeh) had the perfect voice for his character: strong, yet well grounded with a beautiful sounding ease about it. It didn’t sound like modern pop or have a low bass-like feel (something directors sometimes gravitate towards in their choice in Josephs). I particuarly enjoyed his vocal performance of the classic song “Joseph’s Coat.” Jon Rash quickly engaged the audience with his clear voice and well directed movement of the bright colorful coat across the stage. Dakota Moses (who played Judah) was another vocal standout. His bright cheery performance of “Benjamin Calypso” was an excellent segue from the more serious prior song, “Who’s The Thief?” Moses also took some minor risks with the music with his over-the-top energy and vocal pep and flair, which made the song really memorable.
Now that isn’t to say everything was vocally perfect. I did have minor issues Lovell’s choice to emphasize every part of each word she sang, which made her notes sound clipped—a tendency that grew as the show progressed. She was sometimes losing the feel of the song just to make sure the audience could audibly understand her every single word. Yet, this was a very minor matter, and with a great show like this my critique is really splitting hairs.
Costume Design (by Kody Rash) was what really set this production apart from the dozens of other times I have seen this show. I was delighted to see that with each song came a new and colorful assortment of perfectly planned costumes for the cast. Rash was very successful in giving each song a unique feel, whether it was the country twang of “One More Angel In Heaven/Hoedown” or the 1920’s jazz feel of the song “Potiphar.” The song “Potiphar” was a succesfful costume design due to the cohesion of the multiple costume pieces. The women of the ensemble were dressed in classic 1920’s flapper dresses, with Potiphar’s wife in a floor length sequined mermaid-style dress. Everything else was pulled together through the abundant use of the black, white and gold color scheme.
Cohesion in the show was also evident is another major aspect, Joseph’s 11 brothers. All of the actors were well selected for both their acting and dancing abilities. Every time the brothers were on stage they really seemed to mold well together, although there were many moments of where a particular brother would say or sing something there wasn’t a time where it felt like one brother was drawing undue attention away from the rest. Tight and well executed choreography was the brothers’ strength, particularly in the piece “ Those Canaan Days” in which well crafted leg work and turns were done wonderfully.
The Four Seasons Theatre Company’s production of Joseph will likely be a hit among its target audience: families and fans of all ages who just can’t seem to get enough of this often produced show. Strong cohesive costuming, well rounded vocals from the cast, and a gaggle of biblical brothers that really deliver will make for a joyous evening of theatre fun.