When David Archuleta was 7 years old, his parents introduced him to three musicals within a matter of a few weeks: Les Miserables, Evita, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Drawn to the upbeat, feel-good lyrics of the latter, Archuleta recalls spending hours trying to memorize all the colors in the song describing Joseph’s coat; colors that have been running through his mind for the past several months as he prepares for the opening of Tuacahn’s production of this popular musical, his title role, and his debut on the theatrical stage.
“I’ve always feared acting because I didn’t know if I knew how to act like someone other than myself,” Archuleta said. “This will be a good step to give it a try.”
Despite his gratitude for the opportunity and his excitement to return to the Tuacahn stage as an actor, rather than his usual role as a pop music artist, to say he is nervous is a bit of an understatement. Fortunately, for the many Archuleta fans, he’s used to doing things that put him outside of his comfort zone.
“Anything I’ve really accomplished in life has come from doing things I don’t feel comfortable doing,” he said. “I would’ve been fine if I was created as a rock in the desert, sitting still and basking in the sun. But alas, I am human, so I am expected to accomplish more in life that just sit motionless in the desert.”
Tackling the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s popular biblical musical may have brought Archuleta to the desert, but he’s far from sitting motionless beneath the towering Tuacahn backdrop. Instead, he’ll be dancing and singing his way across the stage.
“I love Tuacahn. It’s always been a wonderful venue with great staff and audience,” Archuleta said. “It already feels a bit like a piece of home and I am excited to have a more residential presence there over the summer.”
Though he hasn’t ventured much into the St. George area until now, Archuleta said he has spent time at Lake Powell and loved the red rocks there.
“I’m looking forward to the beauty Southern Utah has to offer,” he said.
In the months leading up to his arrival at Tuacahn, Archuleta spent the bulk of his prep time listening to the original and Canadian cast recordings of the production, watching the film version and memorizing the lyrics to each of the songs.
It’s that music — and the multitude of musical styles found within the score — that have Set Designer Adam Koch and the entire creative team excited about this particular show.
“Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber are some of the best writers in the industry,” Koch said in an interview early on in the creative process. “I’m not worried about being inspired in a whole new way because the music is so good.”
As Koch and his colleagues (the same group responsible for last year’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) turned their creative energy to the story of Joseph — who is sold into slavery by his brothers, but ultimately comes out as the hero — a real life rise to fame story emerged.
“It’s a story of the upward mobility of Joseph,” Koch said, “and David Archuleta is the perfect embodiment of that from American Idol and his other successes.”
Thus, the plan to embrace a contemporary concert style in the set design was born.
“Biblical Egyptian era can be so dusty and rusty and old-fashioned,” Koch said. “David is young. We didn’t want to make the set design feel old and tired. We wanted it to be fresh and contemporary.”
Director Michael Heitzman agreed.
“Joseph is often a show that introduces young kids to the theater-going experience,” Heitzman said. “Our goal is that you will come and have an amazingly fun time.”
Teasing to some special surprises inside the show, Heitzman said he loves that this musical offers so much flexibility, making every version of Joseph just a little bit different.
“It’s such a malleable piece,” he said. “Yet at its core it is a story about family, and mistakes, and forgiving each other and that speaks to everyone.”
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs July 16 to Oct. 20, with Archuleta playing the lead role through Sept. 3. After that, Josh Strickland — who played the original Tarzan in the Broadway production of Disney’s Tarzan — will play the role of Joseph. Get tickets online now at www.tuacahn.org or call the box office at 435-652-3300.