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IU Auditorium: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is at the IU Auditorium in an energetic, colorful and accomplished production. The show begins at seven-thirty, a half an hour earlier than usual. and is advertised as "family -friendly." Wednesday night’s appreciative audience did have plenty of families.

Lyricist Tim Rice and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s "Joseph…" comes from 1968. It’s just before "Jesus Christ Superstar" and their later success "Evita." Through song and narration, they tell the basic story of Jacob’s favoritism toward his bratty young son Joseph, the jealousy of his brothers who sell him into slavery, how Joseph rises to power in Egypt and the eventual happy family reconciliation.

The music of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is a medley of styles. The brothers’ joy at getting rid of Joseph is an "Oklahoma" style hoe-down number with cactus and cowboy hats. The Egyptian overseer Potiphar is introduced in ragtime. "Go, Go, Go Joseph" is a disco inspired piece. The Pharoh sings like the young Elvis and dresses like the old one. Jacob and his beret’d sons lament the famine in Canaan in a Jacques Brel style French ballad and the family’s youngest son Benjamin is treated in a calypso number. In the show each of the styles is expressively used and impressively mounted.

Singing throughout, whether solo or ensemble was expressive with most of the words crystal clear. Dancing is more athletic than complex, but the level of that athleticism whether they are doing a country hoe-down, a big city disco number or even a half time cheer leader show was impressive.

I was disappointed in a couple of points about Joseph. The brothers’ song consoling Jacob for Joseph’s supposed death is "One More Angel in Heaven," …not bad as a country and western theme, but not Biblical and not Jewish. And, as Joseph lies in the Egyptian dungeon he consoles himself with the notion that though he is condemned his people are promised a land. Not a bad sentiment for the nineteenth century "volk" spirit, but Judaism –and Christianity–always has the individual life as the first value. However…making these points on the Rice and Webber’s musical is like attacking a pretty butterfly with a two-by-four.

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at the IU Auditorium is indeed amazing and appropriately enough a wonderfully colorful production. The technical resources, the lighting the sound the set designs, and polish of touring productions today are just incredible. As I zipped out of the Auditorium to get started on this review, the audience was rising for a warm standing ovation.

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" has its final performance this evening at seven-thirty.

You can an interview with the cast’s narrator on our Arts Interviews page .

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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