Theatre

Having seen the Donny Osmond and even the Patrick Cassidy productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber's colorful telling of the Joseph story years ago, I remember really enjoying them in a children's theater sort of way. The characters are colorful, the story has a good lesson and the songs catchy. Upon seeing Drury Lane’s spectacular re-imagining of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I couldn't even remember what the original story line was about. Which turns out to be a good thing! I got to relive the adventure all over again, and this time with several big changes to the traditional production.
 
The pyramids of Egypt are replaced with the pyramid of The Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas and much of the "dreamer’s dreams” dreamt by Joseph are played out with much talent right there in his decidedly low luxury level Luxor hotel room, complete with an overlooking view of The Strip.
 
The narrator has been replaced with the amazing singular talent of Christina Bianco, a world renown singer and impersonator of our generations greatest singers. Bianco blows the audience away with technically difficult and spot on - sometimes hilarious - impersonations of Britney Spears, Cher, Liza Minelli, Shania Twain, Bernadette Peters and even Edith Piaf! Having a woman narrator with such brilliant singing skills that she becomes literally "everywoman" is a very refreshing and funny delight throughout the show. 
 
Directed with ballsy style by Alan Souza with choreography by Grady M. Bowman, the dance numbers, which include Vegas style showgirls and Joseph’s brothers who double as "showgirls in drag" at one point, are absolutely fantastic! 
 
The effect of the many complicated and energetic dance numbers all dressed up in Ryan Park’s modern silk and Vegas-style costumes and Claire Moore's deliciously designed wigs is one of bewildering entertainment with almost too many great dancers to take in all at once. 
 
In another break from the traditional production, Elvis Presley was also replaced in this show with Elton John - perhaps a contemporary nod to the LGBTQ community. 
 
Evan Alexander Smith who plays Joseph as a nerdy, confused young man fell short for me. Although Smith has a great singing voice in general, his lackluster, befuddled portrayal of Joseph left me wanting someone with more star quality at any age in that role. Unfortunately for Smith, it would probably take someone with Donny Osmond's level of sex appeal and onstage charisma to have been be able to play the essential lead role in a way that wasn't dwarfed so completely by Christine Bianco's many talents. 
 
The musical is based on the Biblical story in Genesis of Joseph’s who receives nothing but jealously from his eleven brothers after their father, Jacob, gifts him with a colorful coat. Beaten and left for dead by his own siblings, Joseph is kidnapped up by slave traders and taken to Egypt. It is after his ability to translate dreams reaches the pharaoh, that his life takes an unexpected turn.
 
This production is absolutely nothing like the "Technicolor Dream Coat" Chicagoan's have been taking their kids to for decades, and at times is a bit confusing while following the quickly moving lyrics as they are now delivered in such a unique way especially by Bianco. But as an adult wanting to see a fresh, fun and sexy version of the Joseph story, I was really blown away by the blast of color, powerful sound and spectacle delivered by the entire cast and design team. 
 
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, currently being performed at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook through March 25th, is a lively musical that dazzles visually and includes all around excellent performances from its gifted cast. For more show information visit www.DruryLaneTheatre.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

 

 

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