Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Let me begin by saying I’m not one of those theater queens who gets off on despising Baron (yes, he’s been elevated to the nobility) Lloyd Webber. So what if he rips off musical lines from Puccini? At least he’s stealing from the best; and much of his stuff is original and, above all, theatrical.
Although it preceded his other biblical musical, "Jesus Christ, Superstar," Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat wasn’t produced until the former made him and lyricist Tim Rice household names. Aging tween idols Andy Gibb and David Cassidy helped make it a hit in New York and London, and its family-friendly motif has made it one of the most frequently produced musicals of our age.
"Joseph" has an even looser connection to its source material, the Book of Genesis, than "Superstar." The story of the dreamer sold into slavery by his jealous siblings, his spurning of Potiphar’s wife (now a synonym for a lying, would-be adulteress), his rise to Pharaoh’s prime minister, and his ruse and final reconciliation with his brothers is one of the most charming and colorful in the Old Testament.
The Brooklyn Theatre Arts Project, working out of a great space in the Village, has done Lloyd Webber and Rice’s work more than justice.
The cast, headed by an appropriately young, lithe and attractive Miguel Angel sierra as Joseph; Nadiene Jacques and Elizabeth Flanagan, as the cocktail-black-dress-clad efficient narrators; and Paul Campione as Pharaoh, is uniformly delightful.
Dustin Cross has worked overtime with the choreography, which punctuates nearly all the action. A trio led by musical director Christopher Bradshaw does yeoman’s work with Lloyd Webber’s sung-through score.
Special mention has to be made to the children’s chorus. It’s not easy to direct kids, but Anthony Augello and Paul Campione have directed them in such a way that they are completely charming without ever veering into cloying.
All that effort is in the service of a score that I find more annoying than enjoyable. Lloyd Webber teeters a bit too close to preciosity. Like "Pippin" (which it resembles in many ways), this is a meta-musical that always winks at the action on stage.
Sometimes (as in "Pippin"), this works. (I have a feeling "Pippin" may have been on Cross’ mind as well, since there’s a distinct Fosse feel to much of the dancing.) Obviously, there are many who love the light tone of "Joseph."
If you’re a fan and are jonesing for one of the few Lloyd Webber musicals not to make it to celluloid, or if you just want to come out in support of a great local company, head to MacDougal Street. There are certainly worse ways to spend two hours.
The Players Theatre
115 MacDougal Street (just south of Washington Square)
Tickets $25 (cheap!); kids & seniors $20