(Above: Actor Chad Lowe leads the 18-member cast of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on stage now at Actors Cabaret in downtown Eugene.)
By Randi Bjornstad
“Sung-through” movies (meaning that virtually all of the dialogue is sung, rather than spoken) are not a new concept, but they do help in a way to provide a bridge for audiences between regular dialogue and opera.
There’s less of a difference, of course, between musical theater and opera, although most musical theater productions also depend on spoken dialogue to move the plot along.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which opens on Nov. 17 at Actors Cabaret in downtown Eugene and runs through Dec. 16, is a good example of the kind of musical that uses songs both to further the story and entertain the audience with lively music and dance.
“Joseph …” is the creation of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, who tell the Biblical story of Joseph — in the book of Genesis — who was the favorite among his father’s 12 sons and therefore was sold into slavery by his nasty siblings out of jealousy (both for the favoritism and his beautiful “coat of many colors”) and Joseph’s dream that someday he would be elevated in stature and would be their ruler.
As luck would have it, Joseph became slave to a wealthy man named Potiphar and because of his natural abilities soon becomes his right-hand man. Mrs. Potiphar takes a fancy to the young slave and makes a play for him — which he rejects — so she sets up a scene to make her husband think the two are having an affair.
Joseph ends up in jail, where he becomes known for his ability to interpret dreams, including foretelling that one of his cellmates, a former servant of the Pharaoh, will be freed and returned to service. When that happens, the servant goes home to the palace and tells the Pharaoh — who’s been having a lot of bad dreams — about Joseph’s abilities at interpretation.”
Because of his success at predicting the dreams to mean seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine and the need to save in the good times to make it through the bad, Pharaoh makes Joseph his No. 2.
During the famine years, part of Joseph’s job is to go throughout the realm to distribute largess to the starving, and he encounters his brothers, who are begging for food. Through a bit of trickery, Joseph discovers that they are penitent for their treatment of him, reveals himself to them and is reunited with his father — who had thought, because of what the duplicitous brothers had told him — that his precious son was dead.
Joseph puts on his amazing technicolor dreamcoat once again and, presumably, lives happily ever after.
The musical had its first American showing at a college in New York in 1970, after the success of Lloyd Webber and Rice’s rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which actually had been written later but produced first.
“Joseph …” was much-performed both in Britain and the United States, but it didn’t get to Broadway until 1982, where it then ran for 747 performances. It reappeared on Broadway in 1983 for 231 performances.
The music in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is a potpourri of styles, ranging from country western and calypso to pop to calypso and rock ‘n’ roll. Some of the song titles include “Any Dream Will Do,” “Benjamin Calypso” and “Go, Go, Go Joseph.”
The 18-member cast is led by Chad Lowe as Joseph, with Ashley Apelzin as the narrator, Chris McVein as Potiphar and Ashlee Winkler as Mrs. Potiphar. Rob Roberts has dual role as the father, Jacob, and the Pharoah’s servant, Butler. Pharaoh is played by Donovan Seitzinger.
Other actors include Jerad Covert, Abigail Frazee, Cameron Graham, Cortney Grant, Hillary Humphreys, Lauren Moore, Garett Poncho, Rene Ragan, Brooke Rane, Christopher Ridgley, Samuel Rose and Joshua Sayre.
Anthony Krall directs, with costumes, sets and lighting by Joe Zingo.
As usual, theatergoers have the choice of show-only, dinner-and-show or brunch-and-show tickets.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
When: 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 17-18, 24-25 and Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16; and 2 p.m. on Nov. 26 and Dec. 3
Where: Actors Cabaret, 996 Willamette St. in downtown Eugene
Tickets: Show only, $16 to 27; show with meal, $32.95 to $48.95, available at the box office, 541-683-4368 or online at actorscabaret.org (no online ticket orders the day of the show)