By Dee Jae Cox
Not every Broadway production is a hit. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, currently in production at the Palm Canyon Theatre, in Palm Springs and directed by Charles Harvey, was a collaboration between famed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Time Rice, immediately following the success of their mega hits Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) and Evita (1979.) Joseph had several incarnations between its first conception in 1969 and its Broadway debut in 1982. The 1999 straight to video film version starred 70’s teen heartthrob Donny Osmond, who had reprised his stage role from the 1992 North American tour.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tells the story of Joseph, and his coat of many colors from the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Joseph is played wonderfully, by talented actor Scott Clinkscales. Clinkscales has a ‘Donny Osmond’ quality and is immediately likeable and able to maintain an easy affability in the role. He makes this show worth seeing from the onset with his smooth presentation of “Any Dream will do.” Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son by his favorite wife and Joseph’s eleven brothers by Jacob’s many other wives, are jealous of their father’s favoritism and so they sell Joseph into slavery and lie to their father about his death. The talented Julie Rosser Balbini does a wonderful job in her portrayal of the Narrator, who strings together the pieces of this fragmented story and provides much needed cohesion.
Meanwhile, I found Joseph’s brother’s country two step rendition of “One More Angel in Heaven,” though performed with skill and timing by, Levi, (Alden Dickey,) Reuben (Mark Duebner,) Judah (Billy Franco,) Asher (Ryan Holmes,) Naphtali (Donald Kelley,) Benjamin (Fabrizio Ibanez,) Gad (German Pavan,) Simeon (Luke Rainey,) Zebulun (Matt Sambrano,) Issachar (Jose Verdejo,) Dan (Daniel Zepeda,) and their nameless wives, to be very jolting if one isn’t expecting a biblical times Ho-Down.
Joseph, has the ability to interpret dreams and this gift allows him to escape his misfortune of being sold into slavery to find fame and fortune, as he partners with an Elvis-like Pharaoh, wonderfully performed by Shfafik Wahhab, and saves Egypt from famine. Technicolor Bible stories with contemporary musical styles ranging from Country/Western to Elvis Presley are not always easy to track, though the fast paced singing and dancing and ever moving stage action does keep the action moving. It is somewhat jarring to see the staging jump from biblical era two stepping to 1960’s pop. I found the music to be as uninspiring as the story, though fortunately Jacqueline Le Blanc’s high-energy choreography was able to breath life into this campy and frantic script. There is little depth to these characters and therefor it’s near impossible to gain any insight from the musical storytelling, though many of the production elements are worth noting. J.W. Layne’s scene and lighting design gave ambiance and definition to this show and Kathryn Ferguson’s work and creativity on a multitude of costumes for a very large cast, was more than evident.
I have many more times than not found the Palm Canyon Theatre to be Broadway’s home away from home in Palm Springs. Their productions are classy and professional. They normally have the creative ability to make big productions fit perfectly onto their stage. Unfortunately this was not a show that I would call one of their better undertakings. The script’s message of never giving up hope left me seriously uninspired. Definitely not the greatest story ever told.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, is targeted for any age and is currently in production through February 5th, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, located at 538 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.
For Reservations: Box Office: 760.323.5123 – www.palmcanyontheatre.org
Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project. www.californiawoman411.com and www.lawomenstheatreproject.org.