Saturday, July 01, 2017

A Whirlwind Joseph Visits Toby’s

Toby’s the Dinner Theatre of Columbia is the venue for a new iteration of the popular musical Joseph and the Amazing Color Dreamcoat.   #hocoarts

A well-staged, meticulously choreographed spectacle performed by a talented cast brings Joseph and his coat of many colors to life in a compact whirlwind of memorable, tuneful songs and a story that takes the audience on a journey from the sins of jealousy and revenge to the virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation. The energy-packed, high-tempo production of the Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber biblical story blossoms in Toby’s in-the-round setting.  

Helen Hayes Award winners Toby Orenstein and Mark Minnick co-directed Joseph and the Amazing Color Dreamcoat with obvious attention to detail, guiding the cast through one number after another with a finely tuned, rapid pace.

Mr. Minnick’s innovative choreography is a highlight of the production.  High energy, precise dance moves in perpetual circular arrangements to accommodate the in-the-round stage are executed flawlessly by a talented ensemble, which is called on to sing throughout these production numbers.  The ensemble performs in just about every song, which is quite strenuous, and they are superb from beginning to end.  

"A well-staged, meticulously choreographed spectacle"

The performances are aided by a competent technical crew and supporting staff.
Lawrence B. Munsey’s costume design is spot on as usual representing the Egyptian garb from many centuries ago accented with a modern touch.  David A. Hopkins’ lighting amplified the action with the effective use of spotlights and fade-outs. 

Ross Scott Rawlings and the six-piece orchestra ably support the vocals and add energy to already amped-up dance routines.  The range of musical genres in Joseph is a varied as the colors on the multi-hued coat.  From a knee-slapping, cowboy hat twirling country-western ditty to rock ‘n roll, to calypso, Mr.  Rawlings’ orchestra was more than up to the task.

Some of the catchy numbers include “Joseph’s Dreams,” “One More Angel,” “Close Every Door,” “Go, Go, Go Joseph,” “Pharaoh’s Story,” “Those Canaan Days,” and my favorite “Any Dream Will Do.”

The familiar plot, described mostly through song, centers on Joseph, the favored son of Jacob who had bestowed upon him a coat of many colors. His eleven brothers were jealous and sold Joseph into slavery while telling their father he had in fact, died.

Joseph winds up working for the mega-rich Potiphar, but Mrs. Potiphar tries to seduce him and, of course, he gets caught.  Joseph is sent to prison where it is discovered that he has the uncanny ability for interpreting dreams and predicting the future.

The Elvis-like Pharaoh is impressed and releases Joseph from prison making him second in command.  The brothers, after not recognizing Joseph, grovel to him and eventually reconcile when his identity is revealed. Joseph is then reunited with his father.

The show features a narrator who spins the tale through song.  During this run, Toby’s is using several narrators, and on the night this performance was reviewed, Janine Sunday handled the role proficiently with good mezzo-soprano vocals.

Wood Van Meter as Joseph
Well cast as the title character is handsome Wood Van Meter.  Energetic throughout and seemingly enjoying the part, Mr. Van Meter, who performs in most of the songs, demonstrates strong vocal skills and is particularly solid in such numbers as “Joseph’s Dreams,”  “Close Every Door,” and “Any Dream Will Do.”

David Bosley-Reynolds plays the role of Potiphar to the hilt. His muscular voice is on display in the aptly named song “Potiphar.”  Lovely Nia Savoy, as the seductress Mrs. Potiphar also performs well in that number.

David Jennings romps through his role as Pharaoh, the Elvis look/act alike.  He runs through a series of Elvis-like antics (especially the trademark hair comb) and performs well with Mr. Van Meter and the ensemble in “Song of the King.”

Other notable performances are turned in by Jeffrey Shankle as Baker and David James as Butler who were cell mates of Joseph.

Andrew Horn as Jacob, Gregory Banks as Levi, all of the actors playing Joseph’s brothers, and the women’s ensemble contribute significantly to the success of the production.

 Joseph and the Amazing Color Dreamcoat boasts a terrific catalog of songs, fine performances, and visually pleasing costumes and set pieces.  It’s a family-friendly show that because of its face pace, sterling performances, and relatively short length should keep the youngsters interested while learning about the power of dreams.

Running time. One hour and 45 minutes with an intermission.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays through August 27 at Toby’s, the Dinner Theatre of Columbia, 5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia, MD 21044.  Tickets can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 410-7390-8311 or 1-800-88TOBYS or online at tobysdinnertheatre.com.

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