Corrections or additions?

This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

June 30, 1999.

Review: `Technicolor Dreamcoat’

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber was evidently a good

Sunday

school listener. Back in 1967, when he was only 19 years old, he and

then-23-year-old Tim Rice collaborated on a 15-minute "pop

cantata"

for St. Paul’s Junior School in London.

Over the years, the work that became known as "Joseph and the

Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" has grown in length and breadth

and become a true theatrical staple. The following skewed scripture

is for those who need a recap of the Old Testament story according

to Webber and Rice, and for those who would like to know what is in

store for them in the family-friendly production, now at the Paper

Mill Playhouse, through July 25.

Joseph was a gifted young man — meaning that he had great sounding

pipes and even greater looking abs — who, though greatly loved

by his father, was hated by his brothers. Their jealousy was such

that they had no qualms about selling him into slavery and then

telling

their father that they feared their brother dead, killed by a lion.

To prove this, they showed their father the remnants of the

blood-soaked

coat of many colors that he had made for his most beloved son (but

most likely bought from the Ringling Brothers gift shop).

Sold to traveling merchants, the young hunk Joseph found a new life

among the rock ‘n rolling Egyptians. That is, once the pharaoh and

his court discovered how good Joseph was at fortune telling. That

he was also good for a little roll in the dunes was the discovery

of the very sexy and available Mrs. Potiphar. Life gets really good

for Joseph, who appears to have lots of time between his dreams to

pump iron, flex his muscles, and pose in some spiffy looking tights

and short skirts.

While the Egyptians have the foresight (thanks to Joseph) to store

grain in preparation for the coming famine, Joseph’s father and

brothers,

most of whom sing and speak with French accents (except for the one

from the West Indies), are starving. Their spirits are lifted when

neighboring cowboys and cowgirls kick up their boots in a fiddle and

washboard hoedown. Richard Stafford’s East-meets-West choreography

here is a hoot. We all know that hunger produces hallucinations. So

it is no surprise to the brothers when they arrive at the court to

beg for grain only to find the pharaoh possessed by the spirit of

the yet-to-be-born Elvis Presley. And who are they to object to a

pom-pom festooned troupe of Texas cheerleaders who have finally gotten

their chance to play the palace?

Of course Joseph’s family doesn’t recognize him behind

the blinding glitter of his royal regalia. Eventually Joseph, after

playing a little practical joke that almost gives his dear old father

a stroke, reveals himself to his family and everyone is forgiven.

There is just enough time for a quick change into white warm-ups for

a little aerobic divertissement. This is the opportunity for the

company

to reprise every song the now two-hour show that began as a teenager’s

15-minute sketch. Did I have fun? You bet. Will you? Here are some

good reasons why you should.

Patrick Cassidy, who has inherited his parents’ (Jack Cassidy and

Shirley Jones) good looks and voice, plays Joseph. He struts and

preens

with heroic agility, even if he is upstaged on one occasion by an

undulating singing cobra. Patrick’s wife in real life, Melissa Hurley

Cassidy, plays Potiphar’s wife with wild abandon, which I suppose

gives their hot extra-marital clinches a G-rating.

Taking center stage, however, is Deborah Gibson, who plays the show’s

narrator, and who winningly and willingly chaperones the 27 local

children who sing, swing, and sway at the corners of the stage. While

you may be hard-pressed to understand the lyrics that fly out of

Gibson’s

soaring voice, you won’t care once you hear a few of them. The comedy

shtick is handed out wholesale by the Osmonds’ Second Generation,

who appear as Joseph’s brothers, and by Adam Williams, as a

fuddy-duddy

Egyptian butler. Director Dallett Norris moves the limber cast from

the land of the sands to the lips of the Sphinx, as colorfully and

irreverently designed by James Fouchard, with a flair for concerted

chaos.

Despite the indecently accessible and appealing scores Webber has

written with Rice — "Jesus Christ Superstar,"

"Evita"

— over the past 30 years (plus "Cats" and "The Phantom

of the Opera" written without him), he is often unjustly and

unconscionably

maligned by his peers. There are precious few contemporary theater

composers willing to risk writing a melody. And Webber is one. This

earliest work has innocent charms and beguiling songs such as "One

More Angel in Heaven" and "Any Dream Will Do." It should

appeal to adults who are willing to see the show in the light of its

moment — the emerging 1960s rock era — and through the eyes

of the child they will surely take along with them.

— Simon Saltzman

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Paper

Mill Playhouse , Brookside Drive, Millburn, 973-376-4343. $25 to

$55; $10 students. Website www.papermill.org. To July 25.


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