It’s true confessions time! I really don’t care much for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I know, that’s practically heresy for anyone living in Utah, given Donny Osmond’s well-known connection to that show.
I’m not even sure why Joseph leaves me cold. I’ll grant you that the show is a stylistic extravaganza, but that’s really about all there is to it. If you’re going to listen to Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber adding a soundtrack to the Bible, why bother with Joseph? After all, it’s just the scrawny little brother of Jesus Christ Superstar.
But I always try to be open-minded wherever I end up seeing Joseph with my critic’s hat on. That means I’m grudgingly willing to let a troupe of well-meaning performers sell the show to me … if they can.
As sometimes happens, I had to eat my critic’s hat at the Utah Shakespeare Festival a while back and you can too if you hurry to one of the final performances of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat down in Cedar City.
Wisely recognizing Joseph is more akin to a Las Vegas review than a traditional musical, USF Director Brad Carroll delivers a high-energy production that is heavily laden with glitz and glamour. His set design is minimalist as is usual for this show, but Carroll employs the ample resources of the festival to provide lavish costumes and special effects. Finally, this Joseph is full of fun, thanks to the boundless enthusiasm of Carroll’s mostly youthful cast.
While all the individual performances are up to the usual high standards of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the husband and wife team of Alex and Samae Allred clearly dominate Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
In the role of the narrator, Ms. Allred keeps the show’s paper-thin plot moving musically by blending a groovy rock-music vibe with her crystal-clear soprano voice.
Meanwhile, her husband leads the excellent Brothers chorus and is especially outstanding in the almost excruciatingly hilarious ballad “Those Canaan Days,” which is sung as a French lament.
In the title role, Equity actor Aaron Young is lucky enough to hold his own against the talented Allreds, but – like everyone else in this production – he performs in the huge shadow cast by Russ Benton as the Pharaoh.
Benton is actually reprising the role he performed in the Shakespeare Festival’s original production of Joseph two decades ago. Back then, Benton channeled a young Elvis Presley in his portrayal of the Egyptian god-king. Now, his Pharaoh is an older, fatter version of Elvis stuffed into his trademark white jumpsuit, trying desperately to perform the same athletic song-and-dance routine with hysterical results.
Even if you’re not a real fan of Joseph, this is a production well worth seeing. Fortunately, there’s still time to do that. While most of the festival’s Shakespearian productions folded their tents last weekend, performances of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will continue in Cedar City through Oct. 12.