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Wear it well
Director Doug King on why classic Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat keeps its sheen
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is one of those musicals that seems to have fans sort of like a sports team has fans.
Maybe some productions are more memorable than others, but as massively popular as the show is — and with a nearly 50-year history behind it, the show has legions of fans — there doesn’t seem to be a definitive version of it; the show itself has remained bigger than the big names that have been involved with it through countless revivals and productions. There’s no cast recording that was a big hit; no particular performance that casts a shadow over every production; and certainly no film version to intrude on the public consciousness (a film adaptation fared even worse than most non-animated movie musicals from the last several decades not named Chicago — it went direct to video).
To theater-goers, it’s the story and the songs that seem to matter the most, far more than who plays what role. It might be a big part of the reason the show keeps — and keeps adding to — it’s huge audience.
That’s my theory, at least, and when I float it by Doug King, who directs the Fort Wayne Civic’s newest production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice take on the Bible story (beginning its run on July 23) he laughs and says I might be on to something.
And King has seen first hand the kind of devotion the show inspires. He was with the professional touring company of Joseph… for a couple years the early/mid 90s (knee injuries sidelined him for a few months); many of the same people would come see the performances week after week. “At $80 a ticket, I’m not sure how they did it, but they were there,” King laughs.
Though he may not know how the die-hards swung the price, King is very clear on why certain audience members would come back night after night. This is King’s third time directing Joseph… for the Civic, and his seventh time directing the show overall. Despite his familiarity with the material, King dismisses the idea of having to go through any hoops to make the show fresh. “Every cast brings something new to a production,’ he says. “The play gives a director and a cast some room to play with different elements of it, to improv a little or add something here and there.”
King says this cast — which numbers nearly 30, plus a children’s choir — ranks among the best he’s ever worked with on a Joseph…”Rehearsals have been a real pleasure, watching this all come together.”
And, for a story that features kidnapping, betrayal and imprisonment, the show itself is also a whole lot of fun (something you can’t say about every work that Rice and Lloyd Webber have been involved in), packed with memorable songs in eclectic collection of different musical styles — there’s a French-style song, a country hoe-down, a disco… And Pharaoh (Brad Davis, in the Civic’s version) is basically Elvis.
It’s family-friendly, too — heck, the whole framework of the show is a teacher telling the Bible story to her students. “Dana Bixler is our narrator, and she just really gives an amazing performance,” King says.
There are also a few familiar faces on stage. Kontrell Tyler reprises his role as Joseph for the third time, and Dawn and Kerry Yingling are appearing in their third consecutive Joseph…
“Beyond the big production and all the flash, the story is very positive,” King says of the lasting appeal of the show. “Joseph goes through these trials, but the overall message is hopeful and forgiving.”
The Fort Wayne Civic Theater presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Arts United Center
303 East Main Street
Saturday, Jul 23 8:00 PM
Sunday, Jul 24 2:00 PM
Friday, Jul 29 8:00 PM
Saturday, Jul 30 8:00 PM
Sunday, Jul 31 2:00 PM
Friday, Aug 5 8:00 PM
Saturday, Aug 6 8:00 PM
Sunday, Aug 7 2:00 PM
Tickets: $29 Adults; $24 Seniors; $17 Age 23 and under
Tickets available at the box office; or call (260) 424-5220; or online at fwcivic.org