My first exposure to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was entirely out of context. My middle choir teacher chose a medley of the musical for our spring concert and most of my classmates found the selections to be, quite frankly, bizarre. Why were we reciting 29 different colors in rhythm? Who was Benjamin and what inspired the sudden genre shift into calypso? Unfortunately, no explanation was ever given and the experience became an inside joke.
With that being said, I was not sure quite what to expect as I sat in the audience awaiting Theatre Three’s latest musical. I’m pleased to report their production of “Joseph” exceeded my expectations thanks to a stellar cast, a talented pit, and outstanding technical merit. While the inherent campiness of the musical remains intact, the masterful Jeffrey Sanzel’s direction elevates the material with a range of stylistic choices and attention to detail.
Narrator Sari Feldman is a fabulous guide through the Biblical tale of Joseph and his brothers. Her warm, but powerful voice soars across the theater while her tongue-in-cheek delivery develops an endearing character. It’s no surprise she’s graced many a national tour including “Cats,” “Annie,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and “Pippin.”
Along with the narrator, the casting of the titular role of Joseph can make or break a production. Fortunately, I’ve yet to see Mr. Sanzel and his team make a questionable casting choice and C.J Russo’s Joseph is a delight. He does not hesitate to embrace the camp and successfully gives the character dimension with a balance of humor and heartfelt emotion. In particular, his performance of “Close Every Door” is a standout, poignant moment.
Despite being a star vehicle, much of this musical’s success relies on the talents of its ensemble. As is the case with every Theatre Three production I’ve seen to date, the group of performers assembled are first-class. From the brothers to the female cameos to the children’s choir, the combined talent is exemplary. This musical with all its eccentricities and silliness at times may not be for everyone, but I would assert it to be difficult not to be entertained by this production based on the pure joy displayed on stage. This cast is having a blast – especially when performing Jean B. Sorbera’s spirited choreography – and that energy is contagious.
“Benjamin Calypso” was far from cringe-inducing in this production. In fact, in an unexpected turn of events, it may be my favorite selection from the musical. Londel Collier gives a show-stopping performance as Judah as he performs the number with captivating charm and vocal prowess. Steven Uihlein was also a standout as he led the amusing “Those Canaan Days.” For regular Theatre Three attendees he will be a recognizable face. This comedic performance emphasizes his range as an actor – particularly evident when compared his vicious performance as Simon Stride in last year’s Jekyll and Hyde. Although one could argue selling your brother into slavery is equally villainous, all things considered.
On the technical spectrum, Randall Parsons’ scenic design allows for the execution of Mr. Sanzel’s story within the show. Its minimalism works in the production’s favor in combination with Ronald Green III’s vibrant costuming and Robert W. Henderson Jr.’s brilliant display of lighting. Meanwhile, Tim Haggerty expertly mans the production’s sound with a wonderful balance between the performers on stage, the children’s choir to the side, and the pit.
I have no qualm admitting “Joseph” will never be a favorite show of mine. I will always be drawn to dry, dark comedy and tear-inducing drama. However, Theatre Three’s production, with all its technical dexterity and display of talent, still provided a delightful evening of theatre. “Joseph” admirably celebrates the power of music and coming together to enjoy a familiar story. In these darks times, this kaleidoscopic production is escapism at its finest.
To purchase tickets to “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” – running through March 21 – visit Theatre Three’s website.
Joseph – C.J Russo
Narrator – Sari Feldman
Jacob/Potiphar – Douglas J. Quattrock
Pharaoh – Andrew Lenahan
Butler – Kyle Breitenbach
Baker – Ryan Worrell
Mrs. Potiphar – Nicole Bianco*
Angel – Alyssa Montes
Reuben – Eric J. Hughes
Simeon – Steven Uihlein
Levi – Ryan Worrell
Napthali – Darren Clayton
Isaachar – Chris Brady
Asher – Kyle Breitenbach
Dan – Nicole Bianco*
Zebulon – Michelle LaBozzetta
Gad – Julia Durfee
Benjamin – Kiernan Urso
Judah – Londel Collier
Wives, Ishmaelites, Egyptians, & Others
Melanie Acampora, Nicole Bianco*, Chris Brady, Kyle Breitenbach, Darren Clayton, Londel Collier, Julia Durfee, Eric J. Hughes, Haley Justine, Heather Rose Kuhn, Michelle LaBozzetta, Alyssa Montes, Tara Shaw, Courtney Sullivan, Steven Uihlein, Kiernan Urso, Ryan Worrell
Anna Bolze, Kaylee Castrogiovanni, Allison Creighton, Ellie Dunn, Alexa Eichinger, Julie Friedman, Skye Greenberg, David Lafler, Edward Langston, Riley Margaret Levine, Samantha Reichers, Michaela Reis, Leah Romero, Cameron Turner, Addyson Urso, Kaylin Zeidler, Lily Rose Zeidler
Conductor/Keyboards – Gregory P. Franz
Bass – Dave Grudzinski
Drums/Percussion – Don Larsen
Reeds – Jeff Lange, Bill Kinslow
Trumpet – Josh Ganci
Guitar – John Derricco
Violin – Marni Harris
Director – Jeffrey Sanzel
Musical Director – Gregory P. Franz
Choreographer – Jean P. Sorbera
Production Stage Manager – Melissa Troxler
Scenic Design – Randall Parsons
Costume Design – Ronald Green, III
Lighting Design – Robert W. Henderson, Jr.
Sound Design – Tim Haggerty
Photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.