Saturday, December 17, 2011

Applause! Applause! Review of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cultural Arts Playhouse by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of the musical Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat performed at the Cultural Arts Playhouse was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and and published in Volume X, Issue 1 (2011) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Cultural Arts Playhouse (625 Old Country Road, Plainview, NY)
Reviewed 12/16/11

Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a musical based on the "coat of many colors" story of Joseph from the Old Testament's Book of Genesis. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music and Tim Rice the lyrics. It was the first Webber/Rice musical to be performed publicly. It was first presented as a 15-minute pop cantata at the Colet Court School in London in 1968 and was recorded as a concept album in 1969. Stage productions began in 1970. The musical was presented in the West End of London in 1973 and opened on Broadway in 1982.

This production of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on the Mainstage of the Cultural Arts Playhouse is a hit. During the run, different actors play the Narrator and Joseph. On the night I caught the show, Ariann Miller Forella played the Narrator and Nick Regueiro was Joseph. I was very pleased with both their performances.

Ms. Forella was flawless as the Narrator of the story and successfully facilitated the telling of the tale without being too dominant a presence on stage. She also has a powerful voice I found very pleasing to listen to.

Nick Regueiro was very convincing as the cocky, spoiled Joseph who believed he was destined for greatness. A boy with a dream, so to speak, although in the end, perhaps "Any Dream Will Do". Mr. Regueiro was well-cast in the role because it is certainly believable that Potiphar's wife would want to tear his clothes off and have sex with him. He is quite attractive and a talented actor. I would certainly like to see more of him in future productions.

The other cast member worthy of note was Tony Frangipane, the Director of the show who also played one of Joseph's brothers. Mr. Frangipane's shining moment came when he led Joseph's brothers in an excellent rendition of  the song "Those Canaan Days" (reflecting on the famine), which contains the very funny line, "No one comes to dinner now; We'd only eat them anyhow".

Notable in the composition of the music by Andrew Lloyd Webber is the variety of styles he uses. "Those Canaan Days" is a parody of French ballads, "Song Of The King" is Elvis-inspired Rock & Roll, "One More Angel In Heaven" is performed as a Country Western Song, "Potiphar" is a 1920s Charleston, "Benjamin Calypso" is Reggae, and "Go, Go, Go Joseph" is Disco. I recommend you purchase the soundtrack to this musical. If it were an LP, I'd say you'd wear out the grooves but since you will probably purchase a CD, you will be able to listen to it for decades to come.

It is said this musical is family friendly. Perhaps that is because of the upbeat music, the colorful costumes, the joking around, and ultimately, the reunification of Jacob's family for a happily-ever-after ending. However, if you pay careful attention, you will see references in the story to polygamy, slavery, premarital sex, attempted murder, cannibalism, adultery, mysticism and bestiality. Still, those issues are all presented in a beautifully wrapped package so pretty you won't even notice what is inside.

I have so far enjoyed the shows I have seen at the Cultural Arts Playhouse and I understand many of the actors performing in the shows are taking or have taken classes there. As a result, many of the audience members are friends and family of the performers, which is fine. However, for those who are not "friends and new family" as Tony Frangipane, the Director, made reference to, I think a greater effort should be made to identify who is actually performing on stage in the major roles in each production. If that cannot be done in the program, then I think a head shot board should be hung in the lobby so everyone can identify the performers appearing on stage on any one particular evening.

I recommend you catch Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat during its run at the Cultural Arts Playhouse. You will not be disappointed!

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