A little jazz, a little rock, a little Elvis, a little Calypso, a little Charleston, a Western spur and a French chanson swirling through rainbow colors. Theatre Cedar Rapids is about to explode in a technicolor feast of sight and sound.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were barely in their 20s when they wrote their first hit heard ’round the world. Fifty years later, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” has been altered, restitched, reinvented and revived numerous times, bouncing from a British school and cathedral concerts to full-blown productions in London’s West End and on Broadway stages. In early recordings, Tim Rice sang the Elvis-inspired Pharaoh role and Webber’s father, William S. Lloyd Webber, played the Hammond organ.
The bright and lively biblical tale of Joseph and his 11 jealous brothers who sold him into slavery is set for its third trip to the Theatre Cedar Rapids stage. Long before he found the Hollywood spotlight, Marion native Ron Livingston played the title role at TCR in 1985. The show returned in 1999 and will open again Friday (5/4), continuing through May 27.
Logan Schultz steps into the title role, with Allie Hagerman as the ever-present Narrator. Thirteen children join the rest of the adults in weaving the family-friendly tale, which clocks in around 80 minutes.
“The music is so joyful and the songs are so beloved that people just love doing it,” said Angie Toomsen, who is directing the show, along with music director Benjamin Schmidt and choreographer Erin Helm.
“For cast and volunteers, there’s such a fond recollection of when they did it last at TCR or when they did it in high school or did it in college. There are a lot of people since 1999 who grew up on the soundtrack with Donny Osmond — not even the original cast recording, but the later soundtrack that became so popular,” Toomsen said.
“My experience is that in the rehearsal room, there’s such a positive energy that’s a little bit inexplicable to me. But people really love doing this material — it’s so lighthearted. It actually does have a message. The biblical parable is a wonderful and meaningful story, so it is rooted and anchored by that. The treatments of the various song styles — it’s irreverent almost, stylistically. People love doing it.
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“And for people who are true die-hard ‘Joseph’ fans, it’s the same thing, even if they’re not actors or singers. Theatergoers also have that same history with the piece. They saw it as a kid or it was the thing that made them fall in love with musical theater,” she said. “A lot of people just have this love for it, I think because it has this good soul.”
It’s also one of those shows that lends itself to various visual and creative interpretations.
“Whenever you see ‘Joseph,’ you’re likely seeing a very different production than you saw the last time you saw it,” Toomsen said, “because the material opens itself up to be handled in any number of ways.”
Costume designer Joni Sackett and her assistants have created a quilted masterpiece for Joseph’s coat of many colors. In the show, it’s a gift from Jacob (Rick Titus) to his son with his favorite wife. It’s the tipping point for the brothers, igniting Joseph’s journey first through slavery, then into Pharaoh’s favor as a dream interpreter, before reuniting with his family.
All this plays out through the vision of scenic designer Bret Gothe and lighting designer Amanda Mayfield, who are splashing the stage with technicolor splendor.
“It’s extremely colorful, and I mean that literally,” Toomsen said. “The set is so vibrant and bright, and all of the convertible pieces that come in and fly in look the part in their own right. It’s one of the most colorful and dazzling things I’ve seen at TCR.”
WHAT: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
WHERE: Theatre Cedar Rapids, 102 Third St. SE
WHEN: Friday (5/4) to May 27; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday
TICKETS: $31 to $40, TCR Box Office, (319) 366-8591 or Theatrecr.org