Theater review: Tuacahn's modern references keep 'Joseph' relevant and funny
Ivins • "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" ranks among a few select Broadway musicals that fans keep coming back to see again and again.
I saw it the first time in Chicago in 1982, for example, and have seen it again at the old Lagoon opera house, the touring production at Kingsbury Hall and at the Legacy Theater in Centerville. I've also enjoyed the video of the Donny Osmond version more than once. The Andrew Lloyd Webber music and Tim Rice lyrics are catchy and the Bible-based show is fun.
So, as I settled down under the stars for the opening night of Tuacahn's version of the popular musical, with an outdoor amphitheater crowd of 2,000, and contemplated a tall but deceivingly simple-looking pyramid slightly left of stage, I wondered how director and choreographer Derryl Yeager would play this one.
The answer came fairly quickly when the pyramid, effectively used to project different plot points through the use of unseen projectors, photo bombed a family portrait of Jacob and his 12 sons with a herd of smiling sheep. Moments later, Joseph's amazing coat of many colors was delivered in an Amazon box.
Before the night was over, cultural references that included Rowan and Martin's "Laugh-In," Lawrence Welk, WalMart, Twinkies, the Mob, breakdancing, a talking live camel (easily the funniest moment of the evening), characters from "Duck Dynasty," comic book moments straight out of the Batman television series and, of course, an appearance by the Pharaoh with more than a passing resemblance to Elvis, kept the audience laughing in amazement.
Expect to see live horses, an old Utah sheepherder wagon, breakdancing done to the sound of actors pounding garbage cans, a hippie bus, a classic automobile, a golden chariot, a flying Joseph and, of course, Tuacahn's almost obligatory grand finale fireworks.
The set, simple by Tuacahn standards, worked well. The pyramid had different levels, allowing actors to use it for dance numbers. Panels at the base opened to turn into a jail twice. And the use of animation to depict dreams was effective.
None of this works, though, if the leads don't possess great voices and charisma. That was certainly not a problem with this production.
The Narrator, who tells the story of "the boy who could go far," is played by Tony Award winner and Grammy nominee Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller. (She won the Tony for Baz Luhrmann's "La BohÃ¨me" on Broadway and now resides in St. George.) From the moment she stepped on stage with a very cute children's choir, she commanded attention with her big voice and stage presence.
Seegmiller's near-flawless performance was matched by James Royce Edwards as Joseph. He plays Prince Eric in Tuacahn's "Little Mermaid," making him the most recognizable star this season. Perhaps it's just the role, but I thought he was much stronger as Joseph. A commanding stage presence, coupled with a great voice, turned the show's dramatic moments such as "Close Every Door," "Who's the Thief?" and "Any Dream Will Do" into stage magic.
Every actor I've ever seen play the Elvis-like Pharaoh puts his own spin on the show-stopping "Song of the King," and Tuacahn veteran Todd Dubail was no exception. As the live orchestra conducted by Melissa Yanchak cranked up the music, Dubail got campier and funnier as the number progressed. He strolled into the audience to woo a slightly embarrassed woman on the front row, ended up stripping down to high-top tennis shoes and jeweled short pants and completely overdid everything, which is actually the point.
Two teenage boys who sat behind me commented at intermission that the show was better than they expected. When asked why, one said that the production seemed "more modern." While I am not sure if you can call "Laugh-In" references modern such as "sock it to me," or "you bet your bippy," or a man in a trench coat riding a tricycle into the pyramid the young man was correct. The modernization of a story that started "before the Bible began" and the use of many musical styles keeps "Joseph" fun no matter how many times you have seen it. Just wait until the talking camel appears onstage.
A show of biblical proportions
P Tuacahn peppers the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" with references to "Duck Dynasty," Lawrence Welk, amazon.com and Rowan and Martin's "Laugh-In." Live horses and camels, a hippie bus, a sheepherder's wagon and a classic car add to a giant pyramid. Add a strong cast and it's a fun way to spend an evening.
Where • Tuacahn Amphitheater, Ivins
When • Runs either two or three times a week, with start times varying. Ends Oct. 16. Check http://www.Tuacahn.org for schedule and times.
Tickets • $28.50 (children) to $65.50 (adults) weeknights, $46.50 (children) to $79.50 (adults) on Friday and Saturday.
Running time • 1 hour 45 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission