Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice created the Bible-based musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as a 15-minute show for an elementary school class.
It grew into a 75-minute blockbuster that reportedly has been produced more than 20,000 times in schools and community theaters since its 1968 creation.
Stage West Community Playhouse opened its version on Thursday and will continue it weekends through Sept. 19 (notice that the originally-scheduled third weekend has been eliminated), and it's a keeper: good voices, adorable kids in the chorus, colorful costumes, Wayne Raymond's terrific little orchestra, Leanne Germann's fine direction, and a stage full of people who are obviously having a wonderful time doing this show.
Perhaps because of the way Joseph evolved, the show seems to work a lot better in amateur, rather than professional, venues. Too much glitz and pizazz can ruin this simple show. (I recall enduring a huuuuge production of Joseph some years ago at a 2,500-seat theater that gave me a three-day headache. Too much, too much, too much.)
Indeed, this is a show where limited resources are a blessing, and director Germann's cast and crew get it just about right.
The theater first did the show in 1997, with a repeat in 1998 for those left on a waiting list or just wanting to see it again.
Jason Yungmann returns to do Joseph, and his voice has only gotten better in the intervening 13 years. Yungmann gives Joseph just the dollop of arrogance the character needs at the beginning, so that when he's humbled, his evolving softness can be seen as a strength. Among Jacob's (Tom Venable) dozen sons, Joseph is his favorite — but not the youngest, so Yungmann's added years don't pose a problem.
The show is sung-through, with each event introduced and explained by the lovely voices of narrators Angelena Burrow and Morgan Burburan.
Nathan Johnson does a fine job hoking it up as Brother Levi in One More Angel in Heaven after the brothers scuttle Joseph; Darrel Huling is a hoot as a Vegas-style Pharaoh in Song of the King with Joseph; and Matthew Veasey proves he's still got it, reprising his role as Brother Reuben and channeling Maurice Chevalier in a Continental version of Those Canaan Days.
Christian Rice and Kristopher Hamlin add a joyful Caribbean touch as Brothers Gad and Judah in the Benjamin Calypso.
Jeanine Martin's swirling, twirling choreography keeps the action going. The costume team outdid themselves, with Faye Bonometti going over the top for Joseph's colorful coat.
Sig Stock and company's simple set is brightened by painters Melissa Triana and Jay Ingle, but not so much as to distract.
Germann wisely eliminated the frantic number that usually closes (or, truth be told, pads) the show, Joseph Megamix, which does a sort of synopsis to a rock/disco beat.
This lets the action end with a happy, upbeat feel as the 46-member cast sings the show's comfortable, serene theme, Any Dream Will Do.
The show runs only 90 minutes, including intermission and two orchestral overtures. It moves so quickly and is so full of life that it's impossible to get sleepy. The show's story is so clearly told that it's impossible to get bored. This makes the show perfect for ages 5 and older.