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
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
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
their father that they feared their brother dead, killed by a lion.
To prove this, they showed their father the remnants of the
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
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
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
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
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
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
Despite the indecently accessible and appealing scores Webber has
written with Rice — "Jesus Christ Superstar,"
— over the past 30 years (plus "Cats" and "The Phantom
of the Opera" written without him), he is often unjustly and
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
Mill Playhouse , Brookside Drive, Millburn, 973-376-4343. $25 to
$55; $10 students. Website www.papermill.org. To July 25.
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