Based on tales from the Old Testament, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is no Sunday school lesson. Unless, of course, your version included singing, dancing and comedic moments.
The story of Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, and his coat of many colours goes back thousands of years. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s take on things is far less ancient history, dating back to 1968.
The current production of the musical that got the duo rolling – Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, among many other hits, would follow – comes to the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse July 12.
Joseph begins in the land of Canaan with Jacob, who is blessed with 12 sons. His favorite is Joseph, on whom he bestows a magnificent “coat of many colors.” Joseph’s brothers are none too pleased with this arrangement. They resent the way in which Jacob dotes on Joseph, and their anger against him grows – a bad case of sibling rivalry sees the brothers sell Joseph into slavery, telling their father he died.
He is taken to Egypt as a slave, where mishap befalls him. But God raises Joseph up to a position of influence through a gift of understanding and interpreting dreams. From here, he is eventually able to help his brothers and father, and be reunited with them.
“Joseph is an absolute favourite of audiences around the world,” says Alex Mustakas, artistic director of Drayton Entertainment in a release. “It’s an inspiring, uplifting story of resilience, forgiveness, and humility, all wrapped up with exhilarating dance numbers, irresistible music, and a charming main character that we can all cheer for. It’s going to make for one unforgettable time at the theatre!”
Max Reimer is the director of this, Drayton Entertainment’s rendition. Reimer has led previous productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, as well as West Side Story and The Drowsy Chaperone.
Christine Watson is head choreographer. She was previously the assistant choreographer for Drayton Entertainment’s Kinky Boots, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Jack and the Beanstalk.
Ben Page, a recent graduate of Sheridan’s bachelor of musical theatre performance, will play Joseph.
A host of seasoned actors round out the performance, along with a chorus of youth performers who rotate throughout the performances. Taya Nero, 11, of St. Jacobs, is one of those young performers.
Nero says she has been attending Drayton Entertainment productions since she was very young, and therefore has wanted to be part of the theatre world. “I love to sing, act and dance; live theatre is absolutely magical,” she said.
Other local youth in the chorus include Ariadne Deziel of Baden, Deana Scaesteanu of Breslau and Abygail Rosenberger of Elmira.
“Rehearsals have been a lot of fun! I love being able to engage with the main cast and ensemble and see everything they are working on. I especially love working on the songs with the cast and creative team. They are all very friendly, supportive and helpful. It is also really great being in a musical with some of the characters I have seen in previous productions,” Nero said.
An estimated 30 million people have attended a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat worldwide.
The story of the musical is that Andrew Lloyd Webber was approached by Alan Doggett, the head of the music department at Colet Court, St. Paul’s Junior School.
He was asked to, “write a ‘pop cantata’ for the school choir to sing at their Easter end of term concert,” according to the Andrew Lloyd Webber website.
Webber had his friend Tim Rice write the lyrics. From its first performance at the school’s assembly hall, which was only 15 minutes long, the play grew. More performances were scheduled, more songs were added. Later, when Jesus Christ Superstar became a huge hit, Joseph also rose in popularity.
After being performed in various theatres, eventually Joseph made its Broadway premiere at the Royale Theatre in January 1982. It received six Tony nominations, including Best Musical, and ran for 747 performances.
The Drayton Entertainment production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs July 12 to August 5 at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. More information can be found online at www.draytonentertainment.com.