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By Daniel Skora
Posted: Feb. 15, 2013 at 10:03 a.m.
The Encore Musical Theatre of Dexter kicks off its fifth season of providing 100 percent musical theater with "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," the early Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical dealing with the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.
What happens to Joseph as set down in the Book of Genesis is one of the more familiar of Old Testament stories. When Joseph receives the gift of a multi-colored coat from his father Jacob, his 11 brothers grow envious. They decide to get rid of him, selling him to a traveling Egyptian merchant who quickly whisks him away to serve as a slave. The brothers then tell their father that Joseph has been killed, offering as proof his coat which they have stained with the blood of a goat.
But Joseph has a special talent for interpreting dreams, and when the Pharaoh finds himself troubled by his own dreams, he calls upon Joseph to decipher their meaning. After Joseph correctly relates to Pharaoh the meaning behind his dreams, he is rewarded by being made a prince.
In the course of time, a famine strikes the land where his brothers live. They travel to Egypt in search of food, only to come before Joseph, whom they do not recognize. Joseph tests their character by making it appear that Benjamin, the youngest brother, has stolen Joseph's golden goblet, and sentences him to prison. When each of the brothers begs Joseph to take him instead of Benjamin, Joseph realizes that they are no longer of the character that they were before. He reveals his identity and returns with them to be reunited with his father.
One would expect that such a monumental story dealing with themes of betrayal and forgiveness would necessarily receive a dramatic treatment and feature an actor with the stature of a Charlton Heston. But the Webber/Rice treatment, while sticking close to the Old Testament values of morality, takes instead a modern-day, campy outlook at the whole affair.
Spoken dialogue in the show is negligible. The storyline is carried entirely by the musical numbers, with songs like "Go, Go, Go Joseph," "Poor, Poor Pharaoh," and "Benjamin Calypso," reflecting the show's tongue-in-cheek attitude. It was also Webber/Rice's intention that the music include a variety of styles, resulting in a soundtrack that features western, disco, rock 'n' roll and calypso, among others.
Encore's production gets a lot done with only 16 cast members and an additional chorus of six youngsters, of which there are three different who rotate performances. Kevin Rose performs the title role, armed with a strong voice and an appealing personality. The narrator duties are covered by Megan Casey, Madison Deadman and Bryana Dorfman.
The story's focus on color extends to costuming and set design. Sharon Larkey Urick provides for a broad range of costumes, from period Egyptian to French bistro, from island casual to contemporary chic, and from college cheerleader to cowpoke western, all in an arresting array of rainbow coloring. Toni Auletti's set features colonnades typical of Egyptian architecture. Barbara F. Cullen directs as well as serving as the show's choreographer. Music comes courtesy of a four-man group conducted by Jonathan Sills.
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" provides a brisk 90 minute excursion of high-energy entertainment that can be enjoyed by all.
SHOW DETAILS: The show continues through March 3. Tickets are available by phone (734-268-6200) or online at the theater's website: www.theencoretheatre.org. The theater is located at 3126 Broad St. in the historic village of Dexter. Take I-94 west and exit at Baker St.
Reprinted with permission of the New Monitor, Feb. 15, 2013
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