Review: Muny's Technicolor Dreamcoat Is Good Family Fun

There are a few awkward moments, but with a terrific ensemble and great set, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat shines

click to enlarge Jason Gotay plays Joseph in the dazzling Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcost. - JULIE A. MERKLE
Jason Gotay plays Joseph in the dazzling Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcost.

Let’s start with the absolute best part of the Muny’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: the set. I know that sounds like a diss (the singing and staging are also excellent), but you have to understand the incredibleness of this set. A combination of efforts from scenic designer Edward E. Haynes Jr, video designer Greg Emetaz, and lighting designer Jason Lyons, the set explodes with color, neon lights, twinkling stars and the rippling dunes of a storybook-style Egypt and Canaan. The set does as much storytelling as any of the characters and is utterly dazzling.

Probably unsurprising for a show with “amazing technicolor” in its title, Joseph is a riot of color. The production is based on a biblical story of Joseph, the favorite of his father Jacob, who gives him a beautiful multi-colored coat. His 11 brothers are jealous, so they sell Joseph into slavery. Despite that, Joseph manages to become a muckety-muck in Egyptian society.

A classic from lyricist Tim Rice and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show is not concerned with historical accuracy. (Shocking given that “technicolor” is very historically accurate.) Instead, the vibe is like the story of Joseph and his brothers as interpreted through a Katy Perry video (specifically “Dark Horse”).

The songs draw on different musical genres, and the set, which includes video projections as well as colorful, moveable set pieces, helps telegraph those genres — whether it be the country and Western style of “One More Angel in Heaven/Hoedown,” the Parisian bent of “Those Canaan Days” or the reggae stylings of “Benjamin Calypso.”

Two characters do much of the singing, the narrator (Jessica Vosk) and Joseph (Jason Gotay), and both are incredible. It was a joy to hear them, and they stood out among a very strong ensemble. Other strong performers were the brothers who had their own songs, including Reuben (Harris Milgrim), Judah (Darron Hayes) and Simeon (Sean Ewing). The pharaoh (Mykal Kilgore) brought a lot of energy and presence to the stage and was always a good time but was difficult to understand when he sang.

Despite having a multicultural cast, Joseph doesn’t escape some cringeworthy moments, such as when Joseph is sold into slavery to the Ishmaelites. A group of men hop out onto the stage, holding each others’ long beards. One of the brothers approaches them but waves his hand in front of his face to indicate that the men are smelly. The audience laughs.

Ishmael was the son of Abraham and Hagar and the prophet of Islam. Ishmaelites aren’t Muslims, but they’re members of the Semetic tribes from which Muslims descended, making this portrayal of them a little confusing.

Another awkward moment came when one of the few Black actors in the ensemble, Sean Ewing (playing Simeon), broke into “Benjamin Calypso.” The audience again chuckled as he sang about coconuts and bananas in the sun. I still can’t quite place my finger on why it was awkward. Was it that the reggae song felt out of place? Or was it that in a largely white production to have one of the few Black actors sing this stereotypical song felt a little… off?

Still, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. This is an upbeat show with plenty of eye candy, big dance numbers and terrific singing. You’re out by 10 p.m. (with intermission), making it not only charming, but a fast-paced romp that kids can make it through.

And there are plenty of kids. The show somewhat famously started out as a children’s oratorio before being expanded into a musical. It still has a large children’s presence. The Muny tapped its children’s choir and teen ensemble for the show, and they are a delight.

The awkward moments are easy to forget as you glide through the show, to Joseph’s final triumph. Everyone on stage cheers for a reunited family and a father made whole again after finding his son. There’s not a lot of pathos, but there’s a whole lot of shimmer as you end the night in a shower of stardust.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs through August 18 at the Muny. Showtime is 8:15 p.m. Tickets are free to $115.

About The Author

Rosalind Early

Rosalind is the editor-in-chief of the Riverfront Times. She formerly worked for Washington University's alumni magazine and St. Louis Magazine. In 2018, she was selected as a Rising Leader of Color by the Theatre Communications Group. In 2014, she was selected as an Emerging Leader by FOCUS St. Louis. Her work...
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