CEDAR RAPIDS — “I am a walking work of art,” Joseph sings as he struts around the Theatre Cedar Rapids stage in his coat of many colors. That’s a pretty perfect description of the show that played out to whoops and cheers from family and friends attending Thursday’s final dress rehearsal of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
It’s a visual feast full of bright and bouncy lighting, scenery, costuming and characters.
Written as a short pop cantata by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, it debuted 50 years ago in a British school and moved on to various cathedral concerts before being turned into a full-blown stage production in London, New York and beyond. This is TCR’s third go-round with the show, and it’s lively and fun from beginning to end, just shy of 90 minutes.
The mishmash hash of musical styles works well, as Webber and Rice explore rock, pop, cowboy, calypso, French parody and even a little Elvis. Theatre Cedar Rapids amps it up by combining strong vocals with Erin Helm’s kicky, clever choreography.
With a show where all the action plays out entirely through song, however, every word needs to be crisp and clean so the audience can follow the storyline.
This was a challenge at times, especially when the orchestra and chorus pulled out all the stops, too often swallowing up whomever was singing lead at the time.
It’s a delicate balance between instruments, vocals and amplification, and several people told me at intermission that they were having trouble understanding the words.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
But, the action was always crystal clear and propelled the story. Based on the biblical account of how Joseph’s favorite-son status sparked jealousy among his 11 brothers, the show skips lightly through all of the perils and challenges Joseph faces, from being tossed into a pit, sold into slavery, imprisoned, freed and reunited with his family through forgiveness.
Logan Adam Schultz is golden as Joseph. He’s charming, even when Joseph is bragging, but where he really shines is in the only scene that delves into despair. It’s told through Joseph’s prison lament, “Close Every Door.” Not only is he flexing his dramatic muscles, he mines the emotion by plumbing the depths and heights of his fluid vocal register. The moment is stunning.
Allie Hagerman is delightful as the Narrator, weaving together the many threads that unravel and knit back together as the story plays out. The 11 brothers are great hams, whooping and sobbing and groveling, much to the audience’s delight. The 12 women in the ensemble are delightful, as well, morphing into the show’s many moods.
An especially effective move by director Angie Toomsen was to bring the children’s ensemble from the periphery into the middle of the action, drawing a through line between the bullying Joseph received and the bullying one of the children endures at school.
The actors and musicians in Benjamin Schmidt’s orchestra feel all the audience love at the end, but an extra standing ovation goes to Bret Gothe’s scenic design, Amanda Mayfield’s kaleidoscope of lighting design, and Joni Sackett’s vibrant costume design and gorgeous coat of many colors.
On the way out the door, all I heard were exclamations of joy and a chorus of “that was wonderful — I loved it.”
The merry musical plays through May 27.
IF YOU GO
What: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
Where: Theatre Cedar Rapids, 102 Third St. SE
When: Runs through May 27; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $31 to $40, TCR Box Office, (319) 366-8591 or Theatrecr.org
l Comments: (319) 368-8508; firstname.lastname@example.org