Players Go Go Go Joseph

by Bob McLaughlin and John Lieder

The final show of Community Players’ 95th season will be a familiar one: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  This tuneful extravaganza returns to Robinhood Lane for the fourth time.

Based on the biblical story, Joseph follows its title character as he is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, is taken to Egypt, is unjustly thrown into prison, ingratiates himself with the Pharaoh through his talent for interpreting dreams, and becomes the administrator in charge of husbanding Egypt’s food supply. When his chastened and starving brothers come begging for food, he tests them and sees that they have changed. He forgives them and is reunited with his beloved father, Jacob.  The show is told through a mélange of musical styles: Country-Western, Carnaby-Street Pop, Calypso; the King of Rock and Roll even makes an appearance.

The development of Joseph into a worldwide theatrical phenomenon is as unlikely as Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt. The musical began life on March 1, 1968, as the end-of-term concert for the Colet Court School in London. Rice and Lloyd Webber had written a 22-minute, sung-through version of the story and presented it with a combination of professional musicians and students from the school.  Tim Rice played Pharaoh.  The concert was so successful that a couple of months later, it was repeated in a larger venue.  That performance was reviewed favorably in the London Times, which led to a publishing contract and an offer to record the show from Decca.

Here begins the story of Joseph’s expansion.  To fill an LP, Rice and Lloyd Webber had to write enough new material to double the length of the piece.  (It was at this point that the Potiphar subplot was added.)  After the phenomenal success of Jesus Christ Superstar, producers were eager to stage this earlier work, and in 1973 the team expanded Joseph to a full-length show for a West End production.  By 1981, when the show was at last making its Broadway premiere, there was pressure to expand it even more, but Tim Rice decreed that the simple plot had been stretched as far as it could go.  So at this point, the megamix, in which most of the score was revisited, was created for the curtain calls.

Although Joseph has not returned to Broadway, it has had several West End productions, has toured extensively, and has had over 20,000 amateur productions—with Community Players summer staging, 20,001. It is such a fun show that a quite satisfactory production only requires good singers in the roles of Joseph and the Narrator and an ensemble with average voices and the ability to dance a little. However, our production features excellent  voices in Nathan Fryer as Joseph and the awesome Sharon Russell as the Narrator and an ensemble that can really sing and dance.

The cast numbers over 50, including a children’s ensemble of 25. Playing Joseph’s brothers are Alex Dwyer as Reuben, Alex Knightwright as Simeon, Samuel Willis as Levi, Ace Overton as Naphtali, Zach Hendricks as Isaachar and the Butler, Jackson Bradshaw as Asher and the Baker, Jacob Matchett as Dan, Graham Hill as Zebulon, Brian Yager as Gad and Potiphar, Thomas Toohill as Benjamin, and Jay Williams as Judah. Brian Aitken plays the patriarch, Jacob. This group’s excellent blending of the harmonies in “Those Canaan Days” should prove to be one of this production’s many highlights.

Playing the brothers’ wives are Erin Box, Kirsten Brown, Missy Freese, Peyton Tongate, Michelle O’NeallJessa Hendricker, Alanah Hafen, Darraugh Griffin, Nikki Aitken, Angela Roberts, and Taryn Bradshaw. Featured dancers are Kirsten Brown as Potiphar’s Wife, Missy Freese in “One More Angel in Heaven,” and Peyton Tongate in “Those Canaan Days.”

Alex Dwyer is understudy for the role of Joseph, and Erin Box is understudy for the role of the Narrator.

Joe McDonald is Pharaoh and filling out the adult ensemble are Ian Guthrie, Mason Lishka, and Jackson Thorpe.

The children’s ensemble includes Hope AitkenKatie Aitken, Lorelei Arnold, Kai Bailey-Smith, Emma Bottomley, Lillian Eyres, Eva Faulkner, Lareina GreenMiranda Hafen, Ayden Hernandez, Jeremiah Hernadez, Juliet Herrarte, Garielle Hursey, Gabrielle Johnson, Calvin JonesLaila Jones, Becca Lehr, Aubrey Roberts, Joelle RobertsSophia Stevens, Kendall Tongate, Ava Peterson, Lexi Mills, Rowan Loseke, and Ariah Lee.

Ashleigh Rae-Lynn Feger is the director, and Chris Terven is the choreographer. Co-producers are Jay Hartzler and Eli Mundy. Rusty Russell is music director. Erica O’Neill is assistant director, and Judy Stroh is stage manager. Eli Mundy is also sound designer, and Mundy and Terven are doing the lighting design. Jennifer Bethmann is in charge of properties, and Kallie Bundy and Stephanie Duquenne are house managers.

Ms. Feger is the costumer along with Ken Sprouls, with assistance from Billy Blue, Eddie Arteman, Jennifer Zehe Maloy.

The set was designed by Kerry Anne Dixon, and she and Bruce Parrish are master builders.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat promises to be great fun for the whole family. The pay-what-you-can Preview performance is Thursday, July 5 with regular performances July 6-8, July 12-15, and July 19-22. Note that there will be Thursday performances all three weekends and additional Saturday matinees on the 14th and the 21st. As usual, evening performances begin at 7:30 with matinees at 2:30.


Photos by John Lieder