August Night Theatre Group’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” playing at Kingsbury Hall through Aug. 30, is a perfunctory, average staging of the popular musical, with only a few minor things separating it from the other whiz-bang versions you’ve seen already.
To its credit, unlike many of its counterparts, this production does very little in the way of shtick, gimmicks or clever “bits.” It’s fairly straight-forward, in fact, keeping the spirit of fun intended by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music and Tim Rice’s lyrics, without too much additional embellishment.
(Finally, someone has realized that the script doesn’t NEED a whole lot of extra stuff thrown in — it’s written entertaining enough.)
Popular Utah vocalist David Barrus is Joseph, and he lives up to his reputation as an excellent singer, with a powerful, clear voice. He plays the character as a little prideful, like maybe the whole “daddy’s favorite” thing went to his head. Watch him particularly as he sings “I look handsome, I look smart, I am a walking work of art.” He seems to really believe it.
This isn’t necessarily bad, although it is different from our usual view of Joseph as a guileless, naive fellow. It’s an interesting interpretation, in fact, whether it came from Susan S. Holland’s direction or whether it’s just Barrus being cocky.
Another small but interesting deviation from the norm is how the Narrator (Jenny Jordan Frogley; triple-cast with Amy Ashworth Barrus and Chelsea Bagley) actually interacts with the characters. When she scolds the brothers for selling Joseph, they cower in shame and quickly shuffle away. It’s common to see the Narrator dance and sing with everyone, but to see them actually responding to her is unusual.
The sets are big and marvelous, making full use of the large Kingsbury stage. The live orchestra sounds great, too, although the sound mixing could have used some help opening night: During the numbers in which many people were singing in unison, their voices often sounded too loud, almost like a rock concert. A better balance between voices and accompaniment could be worked out, and probably has been by now.
Holland also designed the choreography, and it is superb, especially in the “One More Angel in Heaven” hoedown scene. I’ve never seen such a raucous number in this show.
One problem with the production is that it lacks cohesiveness. It seems less like a show with a plot and a story, and more like a concert full of show-stopping musical numbers. Almost every song ends BIG, with the cast members lined up, their arms raised Young Ambassador-style.
The result is that the whole thing doesn’t really hang well, and what little character development there is in this show to begin with doesn’t come through.
Finally, the show is padded out at the end with a full reprise of “Close Every Door” — an unfortunate choice, if a reprise had to be done (which it didn’t), because it brings the show to a screeching halt before the big “megamix”/curtain call.
These quibbles aside, the show is entertaining, particularly for a first-timer (I had one in attendance with me who absolutely loved it). “Joseph” aficianados — which must be just about everyone in Utah by now — may find it just average.
During intermisison at this show, I finally met Ivan Lincoln, the venerable theater critic for the Deseret News. I had seen him at many, many shows, of course, but had never introduced myself. This I did, and while he was extremely polite and cordial, I could tell he had no interest in me whatsoever. Perhaps he never read the Herald and hadn't seen my reviews. Or maybe he had, and that's why he didn't care to associate with me. Or maybe he's just shy.