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Posted July 11, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

'Joseph' offers fun for the whole family

By John Horan Jr. -- jhoran@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Musicals come serious or silly, but few among the latter can top "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" for sheer escapist fun.

Skeptics need only attend the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre's exuberant production, which brims with wacky characters, melodious music and infectious dancing complemented by magical technical effects. Director Harold Herman elicits vivid characterizations from his cast, including a gaggle of local youngsters who mostly function as a kind of Greek chorus.

The family-friendly show, an early collaboration of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, retells the Old Testament story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his envious brothers. But "Joseph" lacks the jarring music of "Jesus Christ Superstar," the duo's other biblical foray, or the grandiosity of Lloyd Webber's later mega-hits such as "Phantom of the Opera."

Indeed, in "Joseph" Lloyd Webber revels in a pastiche of musical styles, from rock 'n' roll and country and western to calypso and French art songs. The eclectic mix likewise gives choreographer Robin Higginbotham leave to range far and wide, with even touches of sock hop and hip-hop, but the cast manages her challenges with aplomb.

At the center of all the frenetic activity is Joseph, the over-achiever whose ability to decipher dreams leads his rise to prominence as the pharaoh's right-hand man. Jacob Schneider embodies his character's equanimity in the face of pettiness and worse and displays a rich, resonant voice.

Equally impressive vocally is Joy Dewing as the narrator, the other anchor of calm in "Joseph."

At the other end of the emotional spectrum is Michael Misko's pharaoh, an Elvis Presley clone replete with pompadour and hip swivels and other wild gyrations.

Randy Hodson leads the brothers in a comically mawkish cowboy number, a tour de force worthy of "Blazing Saddles," and Mikey Nagy shines in the troupe's homage to calypso.

The cast's antics are rivaled by William Pierson's ingenious set, which includes risers at the sides that frame the action and hold the children and a turntable that carries, among others, lambs, plain, colored and emaciated. Equally bold are Wm. McConnell Bozman's lighting and Joe Kucharski's costumes, especially Joseph's dreamcoat, which lives up to its title billing.

Even when the show is over, it really isn't. The extended curtain call is an abbreviated recapitulation of the action, a delirious romp that could be marketed as an exercise video.

* "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

* By Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice

* Directed by Harold Herman

* Continuing at the Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre until July 19. Box office phone number: 665-4569

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