|Wagon Wheel Puts New Life in Old Joseph|
|Written by Marcia Fulmer|
|Thursday, 11 June 2009 20:00|
WARSAW — The best thing about "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is that every production can be different. In the case of the one that opened Wednesday at the Wagon Wheel Theater to a highly enthusiastic audience of 700+, it can be hilariously and wonderfully unique. The little (15 minutes) pop opera that could has had a long life — and expansion — since its inception in 1968. With several Broadway productions to its credit plus an incredibly popular national tour starring Donny Osmond, it is one show that will never go out of style.
But if you think you've seen (or heard) it one time too many, the WW production will make you think again. With an energetic cast that includes 2009 company members as well as a dozen talented pre-teens, this "Joseph" never stops. The trick here is to see if you can spot how many of the marvelously campy inserts director/choreographer Scott Michaels has incorporated into the familiar tale. I'm certainly not going to list them all. That would spoil the fun. Enough to say that, from the opening sequence when The Narrator (Erica Wilpon) guides her group of students through a natural history museum, the fun begins (think Indiana Jones). . . and it never stops. There are quick-take salutes to Bollywood, to a popular dance show, to a famous WWII statue, to a modern dance style, to . . . but you should discover the rest yourself. It goes without saying that the usual WW excellence shines throughout. The orchestra, under the direction of Thomas N. Sterling, provides outstanding support for Andrew Lloyd Webber's non-stop music (virtually all of Tim Rice's "dialogue" is sung). The production values — set, lights and sound —are spot on, with a special standing ovation for Stephen R. Hollenbeck's dazzling costumes. Not only did he design them, he and his crew of two built (made) them all, a daunting assignment carried out with maximum effect and with incredible attention to detail. As usual, Michaels' choreography is outstanding, making the small arena stage seem to expand to at least twice its size, with this year's crop of singer/dancers more than up to the demands of his inventions and Webber's music. Wilpon, who carries a majority of the vocals, delivers with a strong belt voice that is best in the mid-to-upper range. As Joseph, Brandon Springman is naive and handsome, as required, and has a solid mellow baritone. John Rapson's Pharoah is properly Elvisian, complete with required lyrical mumbles. Enough cannot be said for Joseph's 11 brothers and dad who frequently doff their desert robes to portray other characters. and are equally solid in Israel or Egypt. Ditto the four young ladies who sing and dance as wives, camels (read the shirts!), Pharoah fans and more. Special nod to Rachel MacIsaac as the ardent Mrs. Potiphar. The youngsters who form the tour group each take part in one of the scenes and, again, check their shirts. Before the show, members of the WW Youth Theatre program take the stage to offer a preview of the next production, "High School Musical." If the rest of the season lives up to its opening production, Wagon Wheel is in for a wonderful summer!
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays through June 20. Tickets are $30 for adults; $16 for students age 13 through college and $12 for age 12 and younger. Call (866) 823-2618 or (574) 267-8041 or visit www.wagonwheeltheatre.com.