I must start this review with a preface. As an actor I have been in 10 productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It is a favorite of mine, both as a participant and as an audience member. It’s a show with a good message, that is fun to perform and watch from start to finish.
Because I am so familiar with Joseph, I know what I like and I know what I don’t like when it comes to this show. In fact, I probably am one of the most critical viewers of this show, because of my relationship with it. With that being said, the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres current production of Joseph is the best I have ever seen or been a part of. This includes the Donny Osmond-led touring show from the 1990s that set box office records in downtown Minneapolis.
While this production doesn’t have the glitz of a touring gig, it’s alright, because it really doesn’t need to be flashy, the talent aasembled on and off stage more than make up for it. Director Michael Brindisi has taken the show back to its roots, where the goal was camp, joy, musical variation and most importantly fun. The first production of Joseph I was in happened before Andrew Lloyd Webber remounted the show with star power and a 12 minute megamix. I like my Joseph a little organic and this production is fresher than two free-range eggs.
The talent Brindisi has assemebled is remarkable. The gentlmen who play Joseph’s 11 jealous brothers have resumes that include stints on Broadway and road companies of touring shows. These guys are fantastic. Their singing is unified and clear and the dancing is exteremly well delivered.
The title role is played very capably by Jared Oxborough. Who already has, after previously performing the roles of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera and Che in Evita, has his own personal Andrew Lloyd Weber Holy Trinity under his belt. Oxborough sings passionately and with the charisma this role needs. He’s no Donny Osmond and yes, that’s a compliment.
Jodi Carmeli’s Narrator is a gem with a wonderful voice and some of the best stage presence I have ever seen. She is a great connector between the audience and the action on stage.
Chanhassen vet Keith Rice is his hammy self as the Pharoah. He channels his inner Elvis and provides great comic relief and a well-deserved rest for other members of the cast who rearely leave the stage.
The real star of this show though isn’t an actor or the director. The musical arrangement of this production by music director Andrew Cooke is absolutely stunning. Instead of just playing the score as usual, Cooke has added nuiances to the score that enhance the production. He takes his artistic license and uses it to the hilt without making the show all about the changes. Simple things like an extra measure or two of music, additional harmonies and a few key changes executed at the right time make this show fresh, even to the most seasoned Joseph fan.
Joseph isn’t going to the change the world. But it will provide you with a couple of hours of escapism. And in a world where winter won’t leave and people are doing hurtful and hateful things to eachother, this is the tonic we need for a respite from all the negative in the world.