After five decades, it is probably safe to say most theatregoers are already familiar with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’s biblical story. Jealous for being their father’s favourite, Joseph’s brothers decide to get rid of him. Selling him into slavery, Joseph eventually finds himself thrown in jail, where his skill at interpreting dreams brings him to the attention of the Pharaoh. Rising to the number two spot in the Pharaoh’s court, a famine reunites Joseph with his brothers and father, and all is forgiven.
As with many a Joseph… before it, in the current production at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre, director Barbara Tomasic has attempted to reframe the story away from its bible roots.
In her program notes, Tomasic tells us it takes place inside the present daydream world of a child with big ambitions (I think it had something to do with playing the guitar). But while the connection may be tenuous with no explanation as to why this young man would dream about this particular bible story, it at the very least introduced us to grade 5 student Timothy Liu who impresses in his first professional show.
Told at a breakneck pace in just 100 minutes, including an intermission, Webber and Rice use a diverse assortment of musical styles. Embraced wholly by Tomasic, choreographer Nicol Spinola and this cast, they range from a country-western hoedown to a Vegas-style showstopper and a parody of French ballads.
There is even a calypso number, which in this day-and-age would usually be problematic but is softened just enough around its edges to be only mildly appropriative. It also helped immensely to be exquisitely realized by Vicente Sandoval, one of the many diverse members of this cast.
Of course, no production of Joseph… can be successful without its title star, and in this production, Oliver Castillo delivers big time. While perhaps a little too optimistic at times, given his circumstances, there is an infectious quality to his performance and his excellent vocals.
Matching Castillo’s abilities is Chelsea Rose as the show’s narrator. Rose is stunning here with every note as pitch-perfect as her diction, as she weaves in-and-out of the action with this show’s requisite enthusiasm. I’m still not sure of the statement being made with her black bustier and tattered dress, although one supposes it does provide contrast to the rest of the colourful choices from designer Christine Sinosich.
(On a side note, partway through act two on opening night, Castillo’s microphone gave out. Screaming silently in my seat, hoping someone would rush on stage with a handheld, I needn’t have worried as Castillo’s voice was big enough to fill the room. Quickly realizing the predicament as the only unamplified voice on stage, Castillo was also helped by either the sound operator or Rose herself by adjusting her volume. Either way, it was a great save to what could have been a disappointing second half.)
The third professional on the stage besides Castillo and Rose is Madeleine Suddaby as Pharaoh. Providing this musical’s showstopper “Song of the King,” while she rocks out with her big personality and even bigger voice, unfortunately, the lyrics were mostly unintelligible.
The massive 17-member ensemble in this production proves the old less-is-more adage doesn’t always apply. Handling Spinola’s choreography with panache, they are unstoppable. Under the musical direction of Christopher King, they and his orchestra, handle every musical style Webber throws at them with ease. In a sea of talent, highlights come from Sandoval in the aforementioned “Benjamin Calypso,” and Joaquin Little nails the campy “Potiphar.”
Set designer Carolyn Rapanos keeps things simple with ample space for this massive cast to play. The asymmetric extension on the apron atop a portion of the orchestra pit was a nice touch. Andrew Pye lights it all as brightly as the story itself.
I admit I’ve never been a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph... With its too sweet story, a mish-mash of musical styles, and repetitive nature, there are so many superior products out there.
But thanks to the effervescent Gateway Theatre production and its two Broadway-ready performances, I’m glad to have seen this 50th-anniversary production of the show that would launch a musical theatre dynasty.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Directed by Barbara Tomasic. A Gateway Theatre production on stage at Gateway Theatre (6500 Gilbert Rd, Richmond) until December 31. Visit gatewaytheatre.com for tickets and information.
Happy Opening to the AMAZING company of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'! December 12 – 31, 2019Tickets from $29 →https://gatewaytheatre.com/dreamcoatFour performances sold out – get your tickets to secure your seats today!STARRINGOliver Castillo as JosephChelsea Rose as Narrator/Jacob/Mrs.PotipharTimothy Liu as DreamerChris Ward as Reuben/EnsembleJoaquin Little as Simeon/Potiphar/EnsembleJess Amy Shead as Levi/EnsembleJoshua Lalisan as Naphtali/EnsembleMakena Zimmerman as Issachar/EnsembleNathan Piasecki as Asher/EnsembleGrace Newson as Dan/EnsembleKeira Jang as Zebulon/EnsembleJocelyn Tsui as Gad/EnsembleJulia Mac as Benjamin/EnsembleVicente Sandoval as Judah/EnsembleKrista Skwarok as Butler/EnsembleSimon Abraham as Baker/EnsembleMadeleine Suddaby as Pharaoh/EnsembleFiorella Artoni as EnsembleMckayla Carse as EnsembleRebecca Tiede as EnsembleMarlowe Zimmerman as EnsembleDirector: Barbara TomasicChoreographer: Nicol SpinolaMusical Director: Christopher KingSet Designer: Carolyn RapanosCostume Designer: Christina SinosichLighting Designer: Andrew PyeSound Designer: Brad DanylukStage Manager: Angela BeaulieuAssistant Stage Manager: Koh Lauren QuanIntern Stage Manager: Taylor MacKinnonAssistant Director & Child Supervisor: Sarah RoseAssistant Choreographer: Rachel MurrayAssistant Choreographer: Melissa SciarrettaThank you to Trail Appliances BC for being our Opening Night sponsor!
Posted by Gateway Theatre on Friday, December 13, 2019