‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’
By ERIC McCREA
Trumbull New Theatre opened its 2013-14 season with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
One of their earlier collaborations, the show originally was written for a preparatory school, which is no surprise if you’re familiar with the less-than-stellar lyrics and easy music.
The story is based on the biblical story of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob. A multicolored coat gifted to Joseph by his father becomes a symbol of the attention he receives, which enrages his 11 brothers. The brothers scheme to take down Joseph, and when their father isn’t looking, they capture him and sell him into slavery.
Joseph experiences hard times, until his gift of dream interpretation earns him the favor of Pharaoh. Meanwhile, the brothers and family suffer unyielding farm seasons, and eventually trek to Egypt, in hopes of finding a meal. Once there, they find themselves at the mercy of their exiled youngest brother.
The cast of almost 40, under the direction of Emma K. Wason, is enhanced by a choir of children, which really ups the cuteness factor.
The show is navigated by a pair of narrators, competently played by Connie Cassidy and Hannah Gillespie.
The 11 brothers, usually singing as a group, often had several voices dominating, which unbalanced the harmonies. Despite this, the fraternity provides some of the best songs in the show, including “One More Angel in Heaven” lead by Jim Courim Jr.’s Asher; “Those Caanan Days,” featuring Rob Marlin’s Levi; and “Benjamin Calypso,” spotlighting Gad, played by Samuel Darrin, easily the show’s best singer. Although he doesn’t have a song of his own, young Ethan Montoya as Benjamin makes quite an impression. Also worthy of note is Craig Conrad’s performance as the Elvis-infused Pharaoh with his show stopping number.
The show is not without its flaws. The audience is warned before the show that the aisles are used by the actors during the show. They aren’t warned that the aisles are used far too much by the actors, and it usually results in an obstructed view of the stage.
The show’s lead, Matthew J. DiBattiste in the role of Joseph, seemed to struggle vocally at times, and sang over his fellow cast members, instead of blending with them as they supported him with harmonies.
And with a cast of this size, the musicians were difficult to hear during the large ensemble pieces.
The set at first seemed minimalistic, until the amazing Egyptian background was revealed, showing set designer Tom Hitmar’s talent.
The costumes in the show were on the simpler side, but given how many cast members needed to be dressed, Susan Gillespie deserves some credit. Kudos to her for pulling out the stops on the Elvis costume and the all- important dreamcoat.
“Joseph” will continue at Trumbull New Theatre, 5883 Youngstown Road, Niles, through Sept. 29. Show times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. For reservations, call 330-652-1103.