Bland performances, trite lyrics, campy numbers do not make a great night at the theatre. Filled with them, the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was not a great night of musical theater either during its stop at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. The earnest cast tried to be likeable, but this musical is such a patchwork of styles, images and corniness that it is a wonder it is still around.
The history of the musical sums it up. It was the first collaboration from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber and seems like a junior high production because it originally was. Yep, it was written for Webber’s brother’s Junior School to perform as a spring term concert in 1967. The Biblical story of Joseph and his brothers, it continued to kick around schools for a few years before ever being mounted professionally. Compared to their later works, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and later with other collaborators Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King, it remains a lesser work.
Part of the problem is the songs. They are simplistic and cheesy. Leaving the theater, the most memorable lines and bits were clunkers not ones the audience would hum all night. For example, the Pharaoh Story actually says the pharaoh “was Egypt with a capital E.” Joseph’s brothers suffering in Canaan for some reason sing a French sounding Those Canaan Days with lyrics like “no joie de vivre anywhere, et maintenant we drink a bitter wine.” What is with the French infusion? That was not the only odd choice, there was a Western hoedown number and Pharaoh is an unofficial Elvis impersonator.
2014-2015 National Tour
For the latest iteration of Dreamcoat, the national tour goes with a pop presence with two American Idol alums in the leads, Diana DeGarmo plays the narrator and real-life husband, Ace Young, plays Joseph. They are appealing, but limited in their roles. The narrator is a weird role that tries to hold the story together and give the show a female lead, but DeGarmo does not add much other than a solid voice. Young shows off an impressive body (they did not wear much in Egypt?), but no acting chops.
The most memorable performer was Paul Castree, who played Joseph’s brother, Simeon. He was particularly good in the French Canaan number, where he really milked every campy bit.
The show is not great, but is family friendly and featured some cool projections onto backdrops and clothing. Just know, if the attraction is the names of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber on the marquee, this just is not the same duo they later became. If the attraction is DeGarmo and Young because of their American Idol stints, their singing will not disappoint and maybe on other nights they shine in their roles.
The current Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tour wraps up its run at the Pantages in Hollywood until June 22. It appears in San Diego June 24-29. Other cities on the schedule for 2014 include Kansas City, Mo.; Hershey, Penn.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Buffalo, NY; Hartford, Conn.; Dayton, Ohio; Worcester, Mass.; Providence, RI; Rochester, NY; Des Moines, Iowa; and Madison, Wis. The tour continues in 2015 with a dozen other U.S. cities.
Opinion by Dyanne Weiss
Performance at the Pantages June 8, 2014
Joseph the Musical/US Tour