In a rare instance of a local theater recognizing its limitations and putting them to use, rather than over-exerting itself and falling flat, Little London Dinner Theater uses a small cast, tiny stage and minimal sets to present a perfectly adequate version of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
In so doing, their no-frills “Joseph” (directed by Bob Manning, who staged a similar production at UVSC) is actually original. It’s not just the same old show with a few embellishments for the sake of being different; it’s actually a new concept. Their Joseph isn’t chiseled or fake-tanned, and neither is their show.
The premise is that the troupe Little London hired to perform, the Blaire, Mo., Regional Players (that’s a “Waiting for Guffman” reference, by the way), didn’t show up. So now, a group of nuns providing pre-show entertainment have to do the show themselves, with their three male crew members helping out.
Since we’ve seen “Joseph” before, watching people TRY to perform it is almost as much fun as people actually performing it. And fortunately, the jokes surrounding the cast’s supposed inexperience are kept to a minimum; in general, they just do the show straight, albeit it with far fewer props and costumes than we’re used to. Sure, we know the reason for the minimalism is the expense and resources involved. But we have no trouble buying their explanation for it, too, since it’s so much fun that way.
Seth Child, David Patrick Nugent and Aaron DeJesus, who at various times have stolen whatever UVSC shows they’ve performed in, perform as Joseph, Jacob and Pharaoh, among other roles. (DeJesus’ Pharaoh is hilariously Cuban, by the way, a welcome change from the Pharaoh-as-Elvis shtick that we’ve seen so many times.)
Six nuns play the eleven brothers. (Six women playing eleven people is funny in itself.) Traci Brewster and Jessie Clark are the amiable narrators, with Brewster also playing the deliciously vampy Mrs. Potiphar.
Not everything works in this adaptation. With a small number of singers — and women, too, instead of husky-voiced men — the big numbers don’t ring out like they should. The small space occasionally leads to static stage pictures. Little London’s new lighting system could use some more juice, too (the stage is too dark too often), and the sound system still has some bugs in it.
But the best thing about the show is this: That end-of-show “megamix,” which is essentially just a 10-minute curtain call, is gone. Viva la difference!
I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not in favor of changing shows around just for the sake of changing them. But if there's a reason for it, like there was here, it can work very well. I was skeptical about Little London's ability to stage this show adequately, but they did a pretty good job.