It was my pleasure to attend Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on its opening weekend at Raleigh, NC’s Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio. Directed by artistic director Michelle Murray Wells, this is the biggest show so far in their new space at 3801 Hillsborough St. And it certainly did not disappoint!
The show actually “begins before it begins,” as Joseph (played by the vocally gifted Beau Clark) meanders out onto the stage to sit, peruse, and generally stare dreamily off into space while the sold-out audience makes its way into their seats. Powerhouse Rebekah Holland (as Narrator) drives the show with her flawless vocals, telling the story of the Biblical Joseph (with some creative license).
The staging is simple, featuring an upstage right staircase and a small raised area center stage, some rigging uprights, and not much else. This was a smart choice on the part director Wells, who doubled as the show’s set designer, because it allowed for actors to flow on and off stage and made the best use of a small space with such a large cast, which included Jacob (the patriarch), his 12 sons, their wives, and a chorus of six children plucked straight out of the audience (where they, of course, had been planted).
All scenes, including the big musical numbers, are blocked well, and here choreographer Hayden Moses deserves a major-league nod. Musical director Shelley Dillard Snapp also deserves top-notch kudos — the songs are well-arranged, and the cast’s vocals are almost perfectly on point.
As a whole, the cast is quite strong. Kurt Benrud plays Jacob, who — in all his beard-stroking glory — gifts Joseph with a stunning coat-of-many-colors (enhanced by some almost-hilarious light-up accents); and that gift sets the rest of the play into motion.
Joseph, if you remember your Sunday School lessons, was adored by his father but liked quite a bit less by his jealous, less-favored siblings. When Joseph’s dreams prick the brothers’ pride to the breaking point, they decide to sell him off to some foreigners (played by the Children’s Chorus, who are furnished with beards and camel puppets; the children’s cuteness in general nearly steals the show on several occasions).
As a slave in the house of the wealthy Potiphar (played by Will Brewster, who also plays one of Joseph’s brothers), Joseph finds rare distinction and success until Potiphar’s lusty wife (a flexible and predacious Mary Beth Wright) gets Joseph into a compromising position, and Potiphar has him thrown in prison.
Lighting alone transforms the stage into the dank prison setting for “Close Every Door,” the heartrending solo near the end of Act One, sung soulfully by Beau Clark. Here would be a good time to mention Anthony Buckner’s lighting design, which was very well done. While the opening follow-spot effect could use some work, the overall use of lighting is seamless and enhances the show beautifully.
With musical director Shelley Snapp on keyboards and Colton Loveless on bass guitar, the two-person orchestra does an exemplary job of tackling a score that ranges from classic Broadway to classic rockabilly and half a dozen other musical styles besides.
Joseph’s penchant for interpreting dreams catapults him into Pharaoh’s favor. The hip-swinging Pharaoh presents himself with Elvis-esque glory, and suddenly Joseph is a top dog in charge of overseeing a predicted seven-years-of-plenty followed by seven-years-of-famine.
Devastated by said famine Jacob’s remaining 11 sons, let their starvation drive them to Egypt, where they beg Joseph — whom they do not recognize — for food. Joseph toys with the temptation to “get even” with his brothers for what they did to him, but karma and forgiveness win the day, and the family is reunited.
I’ll admit to a few tears in my eyes when the long-awaited father-son reunion takes place and the entire cast fills the stage — and the house — for its finale. There was an equally touching moment earlier in the play: When the brothers tell Jacob that Joseph is dead, Jill Smith appears behind him, seemingly as an angelic figure coming to comfort the bereaved father.
The show is fast-paced, the acting and dancing are lively, and the music is uplifting. All in all, this was a strong opening weekend that will only be enhanced as continued successful performances play to what will surely be sold-out houses. Bring the kids; this is a family-friendly experience that is not to be missed!
Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio presents JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 and p.m. Oct. 22 at Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio in the The Royal Bakery Building at 3801 Hillsborough St., Suite 113, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $16 ($14 children and seniors)
BOX OFFICE: 919-803-3798 or https://www.sonorousroad.com/tickets/.
SHOW: https://www.sonorousroad.com/joseph/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/1031281600308488/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: https://www.sonorousroad.com/, https://www.facebook.com/sonorousroad/, and https://twitter.com/sonorousroad.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1968 cantata and 1973 West End and 1982 Broadway biblical musical): http://www.josephthemusical.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/joseph-and-the-amazing-technicolor-dreamcoat-4942 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/shows/?show=Joseph%20and%20the%20Amazing%20Technicolor%20Dreamcoat (Andrew Lloyd Webber web page), http://www.timrice.co.uk/joseph.html (Tim Rice web page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_and_the_Amazing_Technicolor_Dreamcoat (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: https://www.bard.org/study-guides/joseph-and-the-amazing-technicolor-dreamcoat-study-guide (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber (music): http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/andrew-lloyd-webber-12073 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/AndrewLloydWebber (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/OfficialALW (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Lloyd_Webber (Wikipedia).
Sir Tim Rice (lyrics): http://www.timrice.co.uk/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/tim-rice-8890 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sir-Tim-Rice-Official/104931586217569 (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/SirTimRice (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Rice (Wikipedia).
Michelle Murray Wells (Cary, NC director and Sonorous Road artistic director): https://www.michellemurraywells.com/ (official website), https://www.sonorousroad.com/staff/ (Sonorous Road bio), and https://www.facebook.com/michelle.m.wells.9 (Facebook page).
Melanie Simmons of Cary, NC is a film and stage actress with a BA degree in Theatre from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA. She also studied dance at San Diego Mesa College and acting with Sande Shurin Acting Studios in New York City and at The Actor’s Workshop in Los Angeles, CA. She has performed locally at the Holly Springs Cultural Center in Holly Springs, Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio in Raleigh, and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum in Cary. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.