Review: 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' a masterpiece from Tulsa Project Theatre
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Thursday, December 20, 2012
12/20/12 at 3:48 AM
Some reviews are easier to write than others. All that really needs to be said is: "This is a great show. Go see it as soon as you can."
That's the case with Tulsa Project Theatre's production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," which opened Friday at Assembly Hall in the Tulsa Convention Center.
This is without doubt the best show this company has produced in its relative brief history. Other productions have been more ambitious and elaborate, such as its multimedia presentations of "The Rocky Horror Show" and "Rent" at the Hard Rock Casino, yet "Joseph" is the show in which all the elements that go into making a piece of musical theater have been fitted perfectly together.
Take the singing. Tulsa Project Theatre has put together the best ensemble of vocalists I've heard in a local musical production in years. On every level - adult individuals, adult ensembles, children ensembles - the singing I heard at Saturday's matinee performance was just about faultless.
For example, the men's number "Those Canaan Days" was almost worth the price of admission by itself, from Sean Patrick Rooney's deliberately faux French accent that set up a wonderful visual gag to the seamless blend and impressive stamina of the 10 voices at the song's high point - a moment that also managed to be as silly as it was sublime.
And that points to another reason why this production works so well. The cast, under the guidance of director and choreographer Heather Hall Newman, bring just the sort of rambunctious, childlike energy and knowing, sly humor this relatively accurate yet still highly stylized retelling of the biblical story of Joseph needs to be effective.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice originally wrote "Joseph" to be performed at an English school, and even as the show evolved over the years into a full-scale musical, it has always benefited from an understanding that children are its principal audience.
So the 13 children in the show are dressed up in parochial school uniforms, with the Narrator (Carly Casey) as their very stylishly dressed teacher, telling them the story of how Joseph (Robbie Bennett) and his dreams that one day his brothers would bow down to him as if in reverence landed him in all sorts of trouble - from being sold into slavery by his disgruntled brothers, to being tossed in jail by his owner because the owner's wife couldn't keep her hands to herself.
Casey, who started her career with local companies such as Theatre Tulsa and Theatre Arts and joined the "Joseph" cast after touring the country in "Beauty and the Beast," handles the variety of singing styles the Narrator has to employ with ease. She shifts neatly from operatic high notes to full-out Broadway belting, with no loss of power or lack of clarity.
Bennett, last seen in TPT's "The Rocky Horror Show" as Brad Majors, played an innocent of a different kind as Joseph, from the boyish wistfulness of "Any Dream Will Do" to a powerful rendition of what is one of Lloyd Webber's best songs, "Close Every Door."
Chris Middlebrook channeled his inner Elvis in "Song of the King," as Pharaoh described his dreams. Jared Jirele demonstrates athletic dance moves and a good country singing voice in "One More Angel in Heaven," and Roderick Hudson sways through "Benjamin Calypso" in a most light-hearted way.
Chris Rose's scenic design was simple but effective - the sphinx head that dominates the second act is very well-done - and augmented by some clever video animations created by MW Productions.
Kent Dennis led the 11-piece band that tossed off Lloyd Webber's melange of musical styles with panache.
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" continues with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. For tickets: 1-877-TULSA-CC, tulsaworld.com/tpttix
Original Print Headline: This 'Dreamcoat' is a perfect fit
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
Robbie Bennett, as Joseph, shows off his coat of many colors in a production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at the Tulsa Convention Center. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Joseph's dreams that one day his brothers would bow down to him as if in reverence lands him in all sorts of trouble, including being thrown in jail. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World