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A cast of many talents
The Fort Wayne Civic Theater puts on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
For the uninitiated, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat…
Oh, who am I kidding?
Maybe you haven’t actually seen a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but you definitely know the story and you definitely know some of the tunes (“Any Dream Will Do” was a hit once upon a time).
I could cite the broken box office records, the chart-topping soundtrack albums, the many hit revivals that Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has racked up since it debuted some 40 years ago — the first collaboration between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to hit the big stage, by the way.
But all that wouldn’t quite do justice to exactly how popular this musical really is. It’s “cult following” popular, as in cult of millions. It’s so popular that finding a lead for a 2007 revival was the subject of an American Idol-style TV show in Britain. It’s so popular that it’s inspired references and parodies of Seinfeld and The Simpsons…
“It’s easily one of the most fun musical theater shows out there,” says Doug King, who directs the Fort Wayne’s Civic production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, beginning its three-week run on March 5. “It’s Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and Tim Rice’s take on the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors, and it’s done through an eclectic collection of different musical styles — there’s a French-style song, a country hoe-down, a disco…”
And a Pharaoh with a more than passing resemblance to Elvis.
“The way I always play Joseph… is that the narrator is a kind of Sunday school teacher who is trying to find a new and exciting way to bring this Bible story to life for the kids,” says King. “She’s trying to find an over-the-top, out-of-the-box way to tell the story. That’s the overall tone.”
The Fort Wayne Civic Theater’s production sports of cast of 25, plus a children’s choir or three — a different choir will open the show every weekend. The unlucky Joseph is played by Kontrell Tyler, who actually played Joseph in another production of the show eight years ago (Doug King directed that one, too). “He has a wonderfully talented voice,” King says. “He plays with the melody a little bit and makes it new and refreshing. He has a very nice, soulful approach to the show and makes an endearing Joseph.”
“In fact, when I hear Kontrell and our narrator sing, I think they should both be going out for American Idol,” King adds.
The narrator is played by Megan Meyer, who was recently in Urinetown at IPFW. King says the narrator role is a tough one to get right — too often, actors in the part seem to be competing for the audiences attention. “But Megan gets it right,” King says. “She draws you in without even trying. She just has a very natural approach to storytelling, and an amazing voice to go along with it.”
If Joseph… has a scene-stealing role, it’s easily Pharaoh (Brendan Kelly), who’s definitely “the King” in more than just name. Kelly lived in Chicago for the last eight years, where he acted in different theater productions (including The Lion King). He says musical theater is usually not his thing as an actor, but he’s having a great time with the role and enjoyed preparing for the part “I actually watched a lot of Elvis’ performances,” he says. “I sort of studied how he moved. I took it pretty seriously.”
Like most Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musicals Joseph… is a “lite opera,” with most of the parts sung and little actual dialogue. Though usually this sort of musical requires a pretty stringent adherence to direction on the part of the actors, Joseph… allows a little room for interpretation and improvisation. “My favorite thing about playing Pharaoh is that the part gives me a lot of liberty,” Kelly says. “I can improv a little bit, interact with the audience. It’s a lot of fun.”
Doug King, who has directed several productions of the musical, says Joseph… has a pretty die-hard following of fans. He believes that the freedom the actors have in Joseph… might be a big part of the reason the show can retain — and keep adding to — it’s huge audience. He talks about a production he directed in Indianapolis where the African-American actor cast as Pharaoh suggested that he play the part as James Brown rather than Elvis, and it got a great response. “The play never gets old, because the actors can bring so much to it, and I try to leave that door open to allow them to be creative,” he says. “People can come over and over and still see something new.”
The Fort Wayne Civic Theater presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Friday, March 5 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, March 6 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, March 7 at 2:00 PM
Friday, March 12 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, March 13 at 2: PM and 8:00 PM
Sunday, March 14 at 2:00 PM
Friday, March 19 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, March 20 at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
Sunday, March 21 at 2:00 PM
Arts United Center
303 East Main Street
Tickets: $24/adults; $16/age 23 and under; $20/Sunday Senior Matinee
Box Office: 424-5220_www.fwcivic.org