A show that mocks the most over-done shows in Utah — “Joseph and the Amazing Yada Yada Yada” and “Forever Plaid” — has the potential to be a delicious satire. And Desert Star Playhouse’s production of “Forever Joseph: Joseph and His Amazing ‘Forever Plaid’ Dreamcoat” lives up beautifully to that potential.
A witty, iconoclastic parody, “Forever Joseph” brilliantly combines the two shows. Donny Osmond (Paul Thomas Murphy, the best performer in the DSP stable), is now so caught up in his famous role that he’s actually telling people his name is Joseph. His sister Marie (Gaynl McAllister) is jealous of his career revival, and she drops him in a well in the desert, hoping to get rid of him. (You have to love a show that casts Marie Osmond as the villain.)
Enter three of the four Plaids (Kenneth Wayne, Chad Wainwright, Rick Miller). While the male-harmony group was on its way to perform a big gig, a car accident sent them to the afterlife instead. Now, the Plaids have come back and have the chance to do the one big show they never got to do in life. (That much is just like the original “Forever Plaid.”) Except one of their members, Billy Clinton (“No relation,” we’re told) didn’t make it, which leads to the best joke in the show:
“He was bad, and so he doesn’t get to perform at the Desert Star Playhouse. He has to go to the OTHER place: Hale.”
The three Plaids find Joseph in the well, and the four set out to do a show. They meet up with the governor of Utah, who performs the same function as both Potiphar and Pharaoh in “Joseph.” Only instead of being an Elvis impersonator, Governor (Scott Holman, also director and co-writer) looks and sounds like Michael Jackson. He gets the three Plaids and Joseph the jackets they want — did you ever notice that both “Joseph” and “Forever Plaid” have characters whose main goal is to get a special coat? — but they are stolen by the conniving Marie, whose show back in Branson, Mo., is flopping without Donny.
Most of the music, accompanied by the venerable David Len Allen (also a co-writer), is parodies of songs from “Joseph” and “Forever Plaid.” “Any Dream Will Do” becomes “Either Show Will Do” (as in, “If you’re a theater in Utah that wants to make money — either show will do); “Plaid’s” “Perfidia” becomes “Four Idiots”; “Those Canaan Days” is “Those Branson Days,” which Marie sings accompanied by wooden cutouts of Osmond brothers.
Murphy is great, as always, as Joseph. His too-short rendition of “Close Every Door” is a hysterical little nugget of dead-on parody. In a world where overacting is the rule, Murphy tends to be understated and sublime, and we love it.
Holman is also quite good as the Michael Jackson character. Watch him when he’s not the focus of attention is see if he’s doing something weird. I bet he is.
The night I saw the show, Julie Ann Christensen and Kaycee Raquel filled in for roles they don’t usually play, due to another cast member having pneumonia. Unless it was a brief pneumonia, you can assume these two will continue playing the roles. Christensen, in particular, is lovely as the Narrator, and Raquel played the Governor’s wife like a trouper, considering she was apparently filling in on short notice.
A few of the show’s gags fall flat — I swear, is the Desert Star ever going to stop doing Enid Greene jokes? — but when you’re swinging at everything, you’re going to strike out a few times. Most of the show is a hilarious success. What’s more, two of my viewing companions have never seen “Joseph” or “Forever Plaid,” yet they still thoroughly enjoyed this parody. Another hit for the Desert Star Playhouse.
Up to this point, officially our second-favorite DSP show of all time (just after "Hamlet"). We had high hopes for this -- as I said, there's so much potential -- and we were delighted to see that the Desert Star didn't blow it. Kudos to everyone involved.