Maybe you saw it at the Orpheum, starring Patrick Cassidy. Maybe at the Playhouse a couple of seasons back. Maybe the Donny Osmond version.
But you haven't seen the Rose Theater's visually updated “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which opens tonight. Director Randi Hard's eclectic concept is inspired by stadium rock shows, clothing store windows and glitzy TV award shows.
This Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, around since 1968, is based on an Old Testament story, but this time Joseph and his 11 brothers are in cargo pants, not biblical robes. Costumer Sherri Geerdes drapes the women in platinum wigs, beaded jumpers and yards of metallic fabric.
Adam Rowe's scenic backdrop is three large geometric frames, exposed lighting instruments and vertical strings of foamboard squares to catch color. A few glitzy platforms roll on and off. Lighting designer Craig Moxon adds disco lights, follow spotlights and twinkle lights that hang like strings of beads to add that rock-star feel.
It all works to reinvigorate a show that's grown overly familiar, despite catchy tunes that cover a pastiche of musical styles.
“Joseph” is nonstop singing. A narrator propels forward the story of how Joseph's brothers sell him into slavery out of jealousy, but Joseph prospers anyway. Rochelle Pickett, a visual knockout in a silvery dress with a soprano voice to match, presides as the narrator.
Sam Swerczek, in the title role, has the stage presence and personal charisma to carry the show, along with an outstanding baritone voice for the melodic ballads “Close Every Door” and “Any Dream Will Do.”
Pharaoh Walter Shatley, in a white jump suit and black pompadour a la Elvis in his later years, rocks and rolls a credible Presley impersonation to comic effect.
Eric Micks also trips laughs in a cameo as Potiphar, who appreciates Joseph's talents until he catches him in his wife's clutches.
The male chorus of 11 brothers and a female chorus of nine get an aerobic workout on several big numbers, thanks to standout choreography by Sue Gillespie Booton. The guys go from Fosse-style derbys, canes and chairs in the opener to bowlegged cowboy moves on the twangy “One More Angel,” French berets with scarves as they remember better “Canaan Days,” and grass skirts for a calypso number.
The women make a fun backup troupe for the Elvis Pharaoh and for songs in which Joseph interprets dreams. I enjoyed their dancing, but their singing was not always easy to hear above the soloists and nine-piece pit group. No doubt Hard and musical director Kevin Smith will balance the sound as they settle into the run.
Nine more voices fill out the active children's group, and the harmonies are terrific when all three choruses combine.
Strong leads, innovative eye candy and kinetic staging distinguish this “Joseph” — a crowd-pleasing 90 minutes including intermission.
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