Thursday, September 20, 2012

J is for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat


I have to say that my tastes in entertainment—in most things, really—lean toward the secular, and it’s been that way most of my life.  Even so, I did grow up reading The Bible Story books and watching Davey and Goliath on TV.   I’ve never particularly liked being “preached” to, but I did like simple stories that taught basic spiritual lessons and showed that living a faithful life didn’t have to be a “church” thing, but was really just about the way you conducted yourself every day.

So, secular leaning or not, maybe it’s not so surprising that a stage musical based on a Bible story entertains me greatly.

Dreamcoat 9-19-12

                                                                      Image credit: The Really Useful Group

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tells the story of Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers (when they chickened out of killing him), who are jealous because their father (Jacob) prefers Joseph over them.  How do they know?  Well, for one thing, Joseph’s the one who got the cool coat.  Besides, Joseph is a gifted man, able to find meaning in dreams; why wouldn’t he be the favorite?  As such, he’s a little bit stuck on himself, but that mild arrogance served him well, even as a slave.  He used his gifts to interpret dreams for the Pharaoh of Egypt, allowing them to prepare for—and survive—an impending famine, working himself into a position of power in the process.

Not to be too much of a spoiler (but you have had a couple thousand years to learn about the story!), but things ultimately work out for the family because even the jealous brothers aren’t all bad, and though Joseph may not be all good, he is the really forgiving type.  It’s a happy ending all around. 

Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice (the same guys that brought us Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita), Joseph was originally performed in various incarnations in London starting in 1968.  After some revisions, it finally became a full-length stage production, making it to the West End in 1973, and then finally to Broadway in 1982.  It’s been going strong ever since.  In fact, according to the official website, worldwide, there are almost 1,000 new productions every year. 

What makes it so popular?  I’ve got a few thoughts on that. 

  • It’s a timeless story, with a simple message.
  • Though it’s got some obviously serious storylines—including attempted fratricide and slavery—the story also has plenty of humorous interludes, and it’s all presented in a light, pop style that keeps things moving along.
  • It’s not only suitable for the whole family, but something all ages can actually enjoy—not always true of highly popular stage productions.
  • And, oh yeah, the music.

Oh, the music.  You’ve got a children’s choir, an Elvis-like Pharaoh, Joseph handling tunes from pop rock to ballads, and a narrator belting out exposition and tying it all together.  I think you’d have to work pretty hard to not be humming a tune when you walk out of the theatre. 

And, speaking of the theatre.  If you don’t happen to be near one of those thousand live productions, there was also a film version back in 1999 starring Donny Osmond.  Osmond played the role on Broadway for many years, and does a good job, though I have to admit, even as much as I love this show, it is definitely better suited for the stage.  Really, though, that’s probably true of most musicals, so don’t hold that against it.  Oh, and if you are one of those people who thinks of Donny Osmond as a teen heart-throb, only capable of churning out bubble gum pop, you’re missing out.  The man can sing.















Joseph is brought to you today in a link up with the fine folks over at ABC Wednesday.  Jump on over there and enjoy even more alphabet fun.