Sunday, December 04, 2011

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Céspedes’ choreography makes Beck’s JOSEPH special

The format for JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, a version of which is now on stage at Beck Center, makes the show unique. In contrast to almost all musicals, the show has no script. There is music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, but no spoken format for dialogue, no hints on how to stage the piece. Therefore, each production is dependent upon the creativity of the show’s stagers.

Usually, since the show is so filled with potential great dance opportunities, the burden falls on the choreographer. And, in most cases, the dance conceivers take their cues from the sounds of the music and produce appropriate moves. Every once in a while a show is blessed with a super creative and talented choreographer and the production explodes into a cacophony of visual moving bodies in dynamic movements. This is the case with Beck’s JOSEPH.

Beck’s JOSEPH is better than almost any production I’ve seen. Why is this production special? MARTIN CÉSPEDES! Yes, Céspedes, one of the area’s best choreographers, has outdone himself in this show. He threw out all of his previous visions and created new ones. The young kids of the chorus, explode with precision and glee. The older teens and adults have a ball doing synchronized and dynamic moves. There’s calypso, rock ‘n roll, western, serpent dance, the dip, and the twist. Even the action curtain call rocks!

They are helped by bright, ever changing lighting effects created by Trad Burns, who has also envisioned a pleasing set.

Musical Director Larry Goodpaster has reinterpreted some of the music to make the sounds fresh. Allison Garrigan’s costumes work well, especially the visually beautiful coat of many colors.

The sound is problematic. Squealing mikes and levels which are set so high that the voices are over-amplified, squelching words. The lack of balance makes for uncomfortable moments. This is not a rock concert, it is a musical in which the words to the songs must be heard.

Matthew Ryan Thompson is “Joseph right!” His rock ‘n roll voice adds an up-to-date sound to songs, his phrasing patterns create meaning to the words. He’s a floppy haired bleached blonde charmer. His rendition of Close Every Door had a beautiful plaintive sound.

Josh Rhett Noble, he of swiveling hips and the Elvis smirk and snarl, is point on as the Pharaoh, stopping the show with his Song of the King.

Tricia Tanguy has a big and trained singing voice. Unfortunately, there are times when she sings words rather than meanings. She needs to go over the words and figure out what they are saying and adjust her interpretations accordingly.

The show has proved to be a holiday success for the theatre. Audiences have flocked to Lakewood every time the show is reprised. And, it has been reprised there a great number of times, since their production “way, way back many centuries ago” when Rob Gibb lit up the stage as the lead in the show.