Having never seen Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I was not fully prepared for the experience at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. Webber's second musical started as a 15-minute cantata and, over time, expanded to the current hour and a half production (including intermission). Set in a museum, the narrators (an archeologist and two teachers/guides) explain to a group of kids about the story of Joseph and his rise to fame in Egypt. Webber secularizes the basic plot by having Joseph claim credit for being able to interpret the dreams instead of giving credit to God as in the Biblical account. The musical is a hodgepodge of musical styles including disco, western, Elvis-esque rock n' roll, Calypso, French ballads and 1920s Charleston.
Since Webber borrowed musical themes from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, TMP borrowed elements from other Webber musicals and embedded them into this production. As promised, some were blatant while others took a little more thinking. Even if you were unsure if something was added in, the chuckles from many of the patrons left little doubt.
After seeing the majority of TMP's productions this season, there is no doubt that Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was its most polished, and arguably ambitious, production to date. The show was sung through, meaning there was no spoken dialogue. Even though each act was only 45 minutes, the continuous singing can wear down even the most practiced of singers. However, every voice sounded as strong in the finale/bows (a Bollywood type song and dance medley) as at the beginning. In addition, the high energy, complicated dances (Tap, three-person Tango, Calypso, Hoedown, Charlston, 60s rock and Disco) were all performed with the skill of experienced dancers.
Director/choreographer Jon Douglas Rake, along with musical director Will Abramse and stage manager Cameron Brown, created an extremely upbeat, solid production. Wrangling 30 adults and 14 youth can be a daunting task, yet the only thing that came through was an utter love of theatrics, singing and dancing.
Sets, lighting, sound and costumes all worked perfectly to enhance the lively numbers. Many thanks to sound board operator Dan Posner for the best run sound this season. The costumes were impressive. Creating/finding/fitting costumes for 44 actors is already a large task but the amount of costume changes needed to fit the different styles that Webber incorporated was nearly outrageous. This is the first time I've seen a "costume committee" needed for a production opposed to a single costume designer. They all did a remarkable job creating flawless and appropriate looks for the cast.
If you love (or even like) Andrew Lloyd Webber, you'll be impressed with Tacoma Musical Playhouse's production. If you are ambivalent about Webber but don't mind the myriad of styles interspersed throughout the musical, you'll have a great time. If you prefer your musicals to have a cohesive style, this may not be the show for you.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, $20-$27, 253.565.6867, Friday and Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m., through July 29.
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