BY TAMAR NEUMANN: It’s been over ten years since Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has been performed on the Orpheum stage, but it’s finally back! If you’ve been waiting these ten long years for this particular touring Broadway show to return to the Orpheum, your wait is over—and I think you will find yourself satisfied with the results. This being a Broadway on Hennepin production (presented by Hennepin Theatre Trust) you will find yourself dazzled by powerful singing, twirling dancers, live musicians, and a light show that sometimes blinds but mostly keeps the show exciting.
For those of you unaware, the story is that same story you found yourself learning in Bible school. Yes, Joseph is that Joseph, the one who gets sold into Egypt and then rises to the occasion and lives happily ever after. This production is directed and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler and stars Laura Helm as the Narrator and JC McCann as Joseph. This being a Broadway touring show, everyone in the show is professional and impressive. Helm stands out as the Narrator. She brings sass and charm to the show. McCann is her equal in voice and talent. He carries the show as Joseph and manages to portray the right amount of humility and strength for the role.
In a show that packs a number of strong performances, one of the best comes in Act Two by Peter Surace who plays Simeon during the song Those Canaan Days. For some reason he appears to be Russian (this is unexplained—perhaps the music just implies a Russian sound or the director decided one of the brothers should represent some diversity), but he does a tremendous job singing and drawing the crowd into his own little farcical world. While there were many funny moments, Surace’s was the crowd favorite.
Blankenbuehler made a number of interesting decisions in this production including starting and ending with a modern twist. It mostly worked, although the application of Joseph’s dreams to my own dreams didn’t really sit comfortably with me. He also allowed more characters to sing, which created some funny moments (Potiphar’s song) and he ended with a Joseph Megamix. Each of the choices helped to update this production and add a little more fun for a current audience. While this story is obviously timeless, (since it was written thousands of years ago and is still being told and turned into mega-musicals) it doesn’t hurt to do some updates every now and then.
Of course this is a musical, so there are plenty of cheesy moments, some crowd interactions, and lots of over the top singing, dancing, and acting. But all musical lovers out there will appreciate the style as it stays true to its own genre. And when it comes to a fun night of music, theatre, and dancing you can’t go very wrong with this production. You will find yourself laughing along with the characters, feeling bemused by the lights, and getting all the songs stuck in your head. Because, just like Joseph in the Bible, this Joseph knows how to rise to the occasion.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. March 29-April 3, 2016. Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN. Tickets: Starting at $39; purchase tickets at 1.800.859.SHOW (7469) or hennepintheatretrust.org