Review by Jack Crumley of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”: Carnegie
Joy, jealousy, betrayal, despair, opportunity, redemption, reunion. For a celebratory, rambunctious, and COLORFUL musical like “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” this show has a lot of serious themes just below the surface. It’s the new year, and that means it’s time for The Carnegie’s annual family show. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice created the seed of what would become this massive production in 1968. It didn’t hit Broadway until 1982, and would go on to be performed(according to Wikipedia) by more than 20,000 schools and groups by 2008.
This family-friendly story that highlights at least half a dozen genres of music tells the Bible tale of Joseph: a son who was so loved by his father, Jacob, that it made his other siblings so insanely jealous that they faked his death and secretly sold him into slavery. Through a series of subsequent events, Joseph bounces back and finds himself at the right hand of the pharaoh of Egypt right when his family is at their lowest, which leads to a big homecoming and reconciliation. In addition to those earlier-stated themes, this story has heavy overtones of faith and perseverance. There’s also a ton of music (did I mention all the music?).
“Joseph” has hardly any spoken dialogue. This story is told through song after song, and thus it doesn’t run too long. This show flies. And the high-energy songs that make up the bulk of Act I are so catchy, it’s really perfect for younger audiences. Director/choreographer Maggie Perrino and Music Director Spenser Smith really embrace the inherent energy in the script. Along with the audience, a good bulk of the cast, too, is young people. That cast, coupled with the bombardment of color and light give the entire production a fun, almost cartoon-like vibe.
And it’s not just Act I with the memorable songs, though “Jacob & Sons” is an all-time favorite, and “Go, Go, Go Joseph” is such a cheer-worthy, driving tune to set up the intermission. The melodramatic “Those Canaan Days,” the oddly whimsical “Benjamin Calypso,” and the optimistic “Any Dream Will Do” will stay with you long after you’ve left the Carnegie.
This isn’t the kind of show that leaves room for a lot of subtle character work, and it’s fun to be able to sit back and just enjoy all the fun that the cast is clearly having while performing it. From the moment the Narrator changes from leading children on a school field trip into a sparkling, rainbow, showgirl-esque dress, it’s hard to not have as big a smile as the rest of the actors. Tia Seay plays that Narrator, and she belts out every note with positivity and confidence. Frankie Chuter (whom I last saw as Johnny in Carnegie’s “American Idiot” earlier this season) plays the titular Joseph. He brings a straightforward sincerity to the role. He’s also got a crystal clear voice.
The majority of the rest of the cast is made up of guys and girls playing Joseph’s eleven brothers. They all have a great chemistry, and their voices all blend really well. When you see this show, you won’t be able to ignore all the energy that Kyle Taylor is once again delivering. Kyle plays the oldest brother, Reuben, and like so many other shows I’ve seen him in (“Wizard of Oz”, “Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and “Annie”), he never stops working in this one.
Other cast members who got my attention in this show: Kate Stark’s dancing and facial expressions as Mrs Potiphar, and Sean Mette, who’s jovial demeanor I’ve enjoyed watching on stage for years now, gets to BRING IT as an Elvis-inspired Pharaoh. Mette also plays Joseph’s father, Jacob, and his moment of being reunited with his long-thought-dead son was a truly touching moment in a show full of bright lights and big laughs.
Speaking of bright lights, the production team really put in some great work on this show. Taking a cue from Joseph’s brilliant coat, Larry Csernik’s lighting design is an endless rainbow that really makes the relatively small Carnegiestage feel so much larger. Cheyenne Hamberg’s costume design is notable for more than just The Coat, though I thought that main piece of costuming was really smartly cut, making Joseph almost look like Neo from “The Matrix” fell into a vat of melted Skittles (in the best possible way). So much of the costuming had a contemporary feel, not bogged down by being set centuries ago. The Narrator’s dress was beautiful, and the simplicity of white and gold on the members of the ensemble really helped play up how colorful everything else in the show is. Also, the brothers all wear darker, patterned colors, often like camouflage, which highlights how different they are from the hero of the story.
Other than an unusually long intermission on opening night, this jam-packed production didn’t have any big problems, technical or otherwise. You can tell everyone has put a lot of rehearsal time into this production, and the only thing I feel like it was lacking was a live band. All the singing is to a recorded musical track, and while I don’t know where the band could fit on the stage, having that extra element of live performance would’ve made things even better.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at The Carnegie is a blast from the second the curtain goes up to the final bow, and is fully appropriate for audiences of all ages. It runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through January 26, 2020. Tickets are available here.