Review: USF’s version of ‘Joseph’ is good for someone who hasn’t seen it – if such a person exists

Production photo from "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat" courtesy of Utah Shakespeare Festival, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — Having recently turned 50 years young, the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is a bankable crowd-pleaser that nonetheless often polarizes audiences with its perceived shallow script and the sheer ubiquity of its performance.

Essentially, anyone and everyone who has ever wanted to see the Biblical send-up likely has – because the show is performed everywhere and at every level – from children’s summer camps and schools to amateur playhouses and regional professional theaters.

Once in a while it even shows up at a Tony Award-winning festival, which brings us to the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s production.

“Joseph” is the first major musical the festival has repeated in the last 20 years. As a show, it rarely surprises but will no doubt please adoring fans who can’t seem to get enough.

Highlights include vocal powerhouse Samae Allred, who narrates through song the familiar story found in the last chapters of Genesis about young Joseph (played by Aaron Young), the favored son of Jacob (Michael A. Harding), whose 11 jealous brothers sell their youngest sibling into slavery.

Production photo from “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat,” courtesy of Utah Shakespeare Festival, St. George News

This is a streamlined production with a simple but elegant set design by Jason Lajka that presents an Egyptian mosaic as a backdrop, with stairs along the wings and upstage that remain in place throughout the breezy, brief, no-intermission 80ish-minute show. But fear not, the energetic megamix still wraps up the proceedings.

This is a good edition of “Joseph” to share with a novice (provided you can find one) because the singing is superb and wonderfully articulate, and it tells the story clearly while serving up the trademark buffet of musical styles, including rock, pop, country and even calypso. Russ Benton’s goofball portrayal of the Pharaoh as the late-stage era Elvis is another highlight.

This presentation begs for creative license, but the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s production hews fairly close to the script and offers perfunctory costumes and choreography without much of a wow factor. Still, the songs featuring Tim Rice’s lyrics and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music have endured half a century for a reason. Although this version won’t win over any naysayers, it’s likely to be a mega-hit this season.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is now playing at the Randall L. Jones Theatre at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, 299 W. Center Street, Cedar City.

Tickets are $20-$77, with discounts for groups, students, locals and seniors; 800-PLAYTIX or The performance runs through Oct. 12 in revolving repertory with other shows.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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