Before Tuesday’s opening-night performance of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Durham Performing Arts Center, the two-millionth visitor won a golden ticket good for upgraded seats that night and a $1,000 DPAC Ticket Center credit to use at any time during the year on any shows of their choice. In just five seasons, DPAC has hosted more than 530 performances of hit Broadway shows, 180 concerts, and 60 celebrity comedians. Three hundred twenty-eight of those shows have been sellouts; and for three consecutive years, DPAC has been listed as the #1 performing arts organization in the region. So, it was the perfect night for one of the longest running musicals in the world.
Before Joseph came to Broadway, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1968 cantata and 1973 West End and 1982 Broadway musical was performed by schools and smaller production companies. As the first collaboration for Rice and Webber, the show produced music that runs the gamut from country to pop to rock. In 1973, with a completely revamped production, the show made it to the Palladium Theater in London; and since that time, it has garnered awards for set design. Based on the Biblical tale of Joseph, his dreams, his need to fit into his large family, and his struggles with slavery, the story is family fare.
Husband-and-wife “American Idol” alums Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young lead a talented cast of actors/dancers in this colorful production, which is full of recognizable songs and references to modern musical icons (i.e., the Egyptian pharaoh puts on an Elvis Presley-type performance that is one of the more comic moments in the show).
As DeGarmo narrates the story, her strong voice easily fills the theater. She shows her musical strength in spades, having to spend the majority of the show on stage. In fact, the first act is almost all hers as she informs the audience about the history of Joseph, the Israelites, his family, and his dreams.
But by the time the first act is over, the audience wonders what the tone of this show actually is. There are times both Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young act as though the story is a serious one, but then one (or both of them) turn on their million-watt smiles like the Joker from Batman.
Young is tall, strong, and handsome; but some viewers may wonder whether he has had any stage direction about where to stand or when to fall into line with the dancers (often his brothers). He seems to be off the mark quite a bit; and although it is fine for “American Idol,” his voice tends to be a bit weak and often lost among the movements of his acting peers. One of the bibical Joseph’s strengths was that he after he became Pahroah’s righ-hand man, he never wavered in his beliefs; but Ace Young’s Joseph seems to just want to have a good time. There is rarely a change in his facial expression; and he does not engage with any of the other actors, except to bump chests with his father.
The supporting cast often overshadows the two leads in both their sense of comedic timing, as well as outright acting and singing strength. The eleven brothers come together several times for an ensemble routine, several of which are quite memorable (i.e., “Those Canaan Days”). Their athletic acrobatics and sense of timing as they create a scene memorable of Oliver Twist’s orphans eating at the long dinner table more than makes up for the lackluster Joseph.
One of the highlights of the evening is the raucous performance of the Pharaoh (played by Ryan Williams). Every swing of his hips, accompanied by an arched eyebrow, and over-the-top impersonation of an Elvis-King brings delighted giggles from the audience and reminds everyone that the story is being told almost in comic book format.
The story is a recognizable one and certainly is enjoyable, especially for families; but it often appears to be only a glamorized version of the school production Webber initially created more than 45 years ago.
SECOND OPINION: May 14th Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/entertainment/x1596734501/REVIEW-A-lively-Joseph-and-the-Amazing-Technicolor-Dreamcoat and May 8th preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/entertainment/x483415065/-American-Idol-alums-star-in-Joseph-production-at-DPAC (Note: You must register to read these articles); May 13th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh interview with Diana DeGarmo, conducted by Larisa Mount: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interviews-Diana-DeGarmo-Dishes-on-JOSEPH-AND-THE-AMAZING-TECHNICOLOR-DREAMCOAT-Playing-DPAC-This-Week-20140513#.U3JP8SjOvqE; and May 7th Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Rachel Teseneer for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/family-friendly-joseph-brings-biblical-story-to-life/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the May 13th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2014/05/joseph-and-the-amazing-technicolor-dreamcoat-at-dpac-will-star-diana-degarmo-and-ace-young/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, starring Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young, at 7:30 p.m. May 15, 8 p.m. May 16, 2 and 8 p.m. May 17, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 18 at at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $32.25-$111.25 (including fees).
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1953746.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/group_services.
SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/joseph-and-the-amazing-technicolor-dreamcoat and https://www.facebook.com/events/429563567152365/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://www.josephthemusical.com/ustour/videos/
TOUR: http://www.josephthemusical.com/, https://www.facebook.com/JosephMusicalUS, and https://twitter.com/JosephMusical.
TOUR CAST: http://www.josephthemusical.com/ustour/people/cast/.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.josephthemusical.com/ustour/people/creative/.
TOUR ORCHESTRA: http://www.josephthemusical.com/ustour/the-show/the-music/.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/diana-degarmo-as-the-narrator-and-ace-young-as-joseph-in-joseph-and-the-amazing-technicolor-dreamcoat.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, and https://twitter.com/DPAC.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1968 cantata and 1973 West End and 1982 Broadway biblical musical): http://www.josephthemusical.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=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).
Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber (music): http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/ (official website), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=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), (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).
Andy Blankenbuehler (tour director and choreographer): https://www.broadwaydancecenter.com/faculty/bios/blankenbuehler_andy.shtml (Broadway Dance Center faculty bio), http://www.josephthemusical.com/ustour/artists/andy-blankenbuehler/ (show bio), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=32280 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Blankenbuehler (Wikipedia).
Diana DeGarmo (The Narrator): http://www.dianaofficial.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/pages/Diana-DeGarmo/124064927901 (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/DianaDeGarmo (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_DeGarmo (Wikipedia).
Ace Young (Joseph): http://www.aceofficial.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/AceYoungOfficial (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/IAMACEYOUNG (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ace_Young (Wikipedia).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater reviews. She is also Dean of General Education and Developmental Studies at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, where she oversees the theater program at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, and a member of the Person County Arts Council. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.com/.