One disadvantage of being a theater lover in Colorado is the lack of access to shows. To expand a personal repertoire of live performances, you’re at the mercy of touring productions and community theater.
Luckily, Colorado is blessed with a thriving local theater scene. Still, inevitable and sometimes-egregious blind spots emerge in a musical lover’s back catalog of seen productions.
So I was a happy to hear BDT Stage was producing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a musical theater staple long missing from my collection.
Now playing at the BDT Stage through Aug. 19, the show tells the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. Gifted with prophetic dreams, Joseph is singled out by his jealous brothers who see him as the favorite son. Sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph is taken to Egypt where a series of adventures eventually make him one of the most powerful men in the land.
Featuring the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the lyrics of Tim Rice, Joseph first started as a concept album 1969, and it became the first of the duo’s collaborations to hit the public stage a year later. With multiple preceeding iterations, Joseph landed on the West End in 1973, then eventually Broadway in 1982, where it received six Tony nominations.
With little expectation going in, I was surprised to find Joseph is hodgepodge of styles and one hell of a good time.
Throughout the show, I often found myself joyfully confused. One second Joseph is in a dreary prison, then the whole cast appears on stage dancing around him in matching white outfits encouraging him to, “Go, go, go!” In one number, cowboys do a hoedown, in another guys in bowling shirts sing doowop. I was always amused when the show took an unexpectedly playful turn.
The show’s consistent chaos makes it exciting and entertaining. Joseph keeps the joy levels high even when dealing with heavy topics like slavery, adultery or famine. There’s never a dull moment, and I consistently had a smile on my face. Joseph is an example of good ol’ fashioned, family friendly fun, which is so welcome in a time where the world can be so bleak.
This production holds extra significance for BDT Stage as it celebrates its 40th anniversary, as Joseph is the first show the company staged in 1977. With four decades under its belt, it’s not surprising the theater company brought the show to life (again) with energy and pizazz.
The show features BDT mainstays like Wayne Kennedy, Brian Burron and Alicia K. Meyers, who co-choreographed the show. Joseph also holds significance for Artistic Director Michael J. Duran, who started his acting career in the lead role in BDT Stage’s inaugural production.
The narrator is played by the always-fabulous Tracy Warren. She’s a welcome sight every time she strolls onto stage to drop wisdom and a catchy song. With her small stature and booming voice, she carries the show with sparkle and grace. She is perfectly paired with Jack Barton who gives the title character a vibrant personality and stunning vocals.
The two leads are supported by a talented chorus that infuses each scene with humor and stellar dancing. The production is topped off with a colorful set and glitzy costumes that range the gamut from Elvis to Mafia Boss to Michael Jackson. Not forgetting the real star of the show, the dreamcoat shines bright in red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach… you get it.
The show ends with an explosive final number where every character gets their chance at the spotlight again and the audience claps and sings along. I left the theater a little lighter, with an itch to listen to the soundtrack a few dozen more times — the mark of a good musical.
The lasting quality of a show depends on its allure to audiences new and old. And with the fun timelessness of Joseph, it’s no wonder it’s a classic.
On the Bill: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 303-449-6000. Through Aug. 19.