Old Testament themes with a disco beat at Toby’s
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 11:21

Joseph on stage at Toby’s through Nov. 18

by Nicole Rodman

    Blending Biblical themes with modern musical theatre, the internationally acclaimed hit Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is now onstage at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore.
    Directed by Toby’s veterans Shawn Kettering and Tine Marie Desimone (who also serves as choreographer), the show tells the Genesis story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.
    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat first premiered in 1968, playing at first in churches and small halls before gaining widespread exposure in 1970.
    The first collaborative effort of legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, Joseph is a fast-paced, family-friendly musical that young and old alike can enjoy.
    The play opens with the Narrator, ably portrayed by Coby Kay Callahan, beginning the story of Jacob and his twelve sons, living in the land of Canaan long ago.

The play contains little spoken dialogue, with the vast majority of the story being told through a variety of show-stopping musical numbers.
    As the Narrator, Callahan is onstage most of the play, delivering the bulk of the lines.
    Despite the weight of the role, Callahan lends an easy air to the part, effortlessly guiding the audience with her strong, clear vocal talents.
    In the song “Jacob and Sons” the audience is introduced to Jacob (a role lent gravity by actor Andrew Horn), and his sons, including favorite son Joseph (Ben Lurye).
    As Joseph, Lurye is instantly likable, with an infectious smile and friendly  demeanor.
    The full scale of Lurye’s talents only comes into view, however, when he begins singing. Lurye’s surprisingly strong voice filled the entire theatre, drawing each audience member into the scene onstage.
    As the play progresses, it becomes clear that Jacob’s fawning over favorite son Joseph is too much for the other brothers to bear.
    The brothers’ bitterness is taken to the extreme when Jacob gifts Joseph with a beautiful multi-colored coat, while leaving his other sons empty-handed.
    In “Poor, Poor Joseph,” the evil side of the eleven brothers is clearly shown as the scheming group decides to sell their troublesome younger brother to an Egyptian slavetrader.
    In one of the play’s standout numbers, the brothers then deceptively tell their father of their brother’s death in the deliciously wicked “One More Angel in Heaven.”
    One of the most notable elements of Joseph is the wide variety of musical genres employed throughout the two-act stage show.
    During the 80-minute production, musical styles vary from Broadway to disco, country and even French ballad.
    While most of the songs in the beginning of the play are disco-flavored or standard broadway fare,  “One More Angel in Heaven” is a heavy, plodding country tune.
    As Jacob leaves, devastated, the tone of the song changes, becoming a raucus honky-tonk celebration of their brother’s “death.”
    Meanwhile, in Egypt, Joseph has been sold to one of Egypt’s richest men, Potiphar (David Bosley-Reynolds).
    A scene-stealer in every show, Toby’s veteran Bosley-Reynolds was clearly having the most fun of all as he hammed it up in the song “Potiphar.”
    Alas for poor Joseph, an attempt at seduction by Potiphar’s wicked wife (played with a convincingly evil air by Heather Marie Beck) soon lands the plucky lad in jail.
    Joseph’s despair, and the range of Lurye’s talents, are apparent in one of the musical’s rare slow numbers, “Close Every Door.”
    Though Joseph is despairing, his luck is about to change as his talent for interpreting dreams soon becomes public knowledge.
    In one of the musical’s best-known songs, “Go, Go, Go Joseph,” Joseph finds encouragement in a big, show-stopping capper to end act one.
    More than perhaps any other number, “Go, Go, Go Joseph” displays the show’s physicality and high energy as dancers leap, twirl and prance across the stage in a breathless finale to the first act.
    As act two begins, Joseph has been released from jail in order to interpret Pharoah’s dream.
    In making his entrance, Pharoah (Will Emory) dons a leather jacket and pompadour similar to another “king”­ — Elvis Presley.
    In Elvis-style rock number “Song of the King,” Emory portrays the Pharoah as a pelvic-thrusting, hair-combing monarch, much to the delight of the roaring audience.
    Explaining Pharoah’s dream, Joseph’s fortunes quckly begin to rise in Egypt as his brothers’ fall in Canaan.
    Led by Reueben (proficiently portrayed by Alan Hoffman), the brothers lament their poor fortune in the hilarious “These Canaan Days.”
    It proved impossible to keep a straight face as the twelve brothers, displaying palpable chemistry throughout the production, donned berets for the song, a parody of French ballads.
    Eventually, the brothers end up in Egypt, where they unwittingly seek an audience with the now-powerful Joseph.
    Testing his once-wicked brothers, Joseph frames the youngest, Benjamin, for a dasterdly crime, expecting the older brothers to turn on Benjamin.
    Instead, the brothers, led by Nepthali (the charismatic and talented Lester Horton), plead for their brother’s life in the steel-drumbeat infused “Bejanmin Calypso.”
    As the show winds to an end, various characters re-enter the scene, singing verses from songs throughout the play.
    A stunning summary of the entire play, the music and dancing builds to an explosive finale featuring every member of the cast in a high-energy, Broadway-caliber finish.
    In addition to the stellar performances, the costume work was also a key element to the show.
    Incorporating Biblical costuming with modern-day dress (for example, the brothers wore robes and overalls), costume designer Janine Sunday was more than up to the challenges posed by such a wardrobe-dependant production.
    Likewise, lighting designer Lynn Joslin stepped up to the plate, enhancing the intensity of each song through a series of fast-paced lighting effects and changes.
    Finally, as always, scenic designer David A. Hopkins and crew built a lean, versatile set able to quickly adapt between a variety of music and dancing styles.
    Though the play is very faithful to its source matierial in the book of Genesis, you don’t have to be familiar with the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors to appreciate the play.
    A glittery, disco-flavored  retelling of the Biblical story of Joseph, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be presented at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore through Nov. 18.