Famous Artists’ ‘Joseph’ brings religious story to modern audience

Who: The National Tour of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Where: Crouse-Hinds Theater

When: Feb. 9-11

Tickets: $32-62

Joseph... Dreamcoat 2nd National Tour

JC McCann performs as “Joseph” in “Joseph’s Coat.” Photo by Daniel A. Swalec

It is commonly said that religion, like politics or income, should not be discussed in polite company. Clearly, the person who set this arbitrary rule had not seen “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” now at the Crouse-Hinds Theatre in Syracuse as part of the Famous Artists Theater Series through Feb.11. This musical, which was first performed on Broadway in 1983, proves that religious stories, if done right, can be fun for the whole family.

When it originally premiered, this production is the first performed collaboration between lyricist Tim Rice and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, two legends in the theatre world. As such, the theater was filled to the brim on the show’s opening night.

The story itself elaborates on the story of Joseph told in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. When Joseph’s brothers become irritated with Joseph because of his constant dreaming and their father’s blatant favoritism, they decide to sell him to Egyptian slave traders. Although Joseph initially suffers as a slave and, later on, a prisoner, he is eventually able to put his dream interpretation skills to use for the Pharaoh of Egypt himself. With these skills, Joseph is able to restore justice in his homeland and ensure that the audience never underestimates the power of dreaming.

An enduring, iconic show such as this one is a tough task for any actor, but fortunately the actors in this production were more than up for the challenge. JC McCann was an excellent Joseph, and commanded the theater when he sang his solo “Close Every Door.” Shea Gomez, the understudy for Laura Helm, also impressed as a bubbly, albeit shrill at times, Narrator.

Marc Ciemiewicz also plays both Jacob, Joseph’s well-meaning father, and Potiphar, Joseph’s flamboyant slave owner, and executes both characters extremely well. Finally, Joe Ventricelli does not fail to entertain as a Pharaoh who, to the audience’s confusion and delight, impersonated Elvis at any chance he could.

Joseph... Dreamcoat 2nd National Tour

Marc Ciemiewicz performs as Potiphar in “Potiphar.” Photo by Daniel A. Swalec

The show features very little spoken dialogue, and as a result is highly dependent on the quality of its strong musical numbers. Highlights include “Joseph’s Coat,” the number in which Joseph receives the eponymous rainbow coat, crowd favorite “Those Canaan Days,” and the always inspiring “Any Dream Will Do.” The technical production and set design surrounding these musical numbers, meanwhile, was outstanding, and expertly conveyed every location from a barren jail cell to a rainbow explosion in the finale. A word of warning, however; if you are sensitive to bright or strobe lights, this may not be the show for you, since these are used frequently.

In our world of technology and constant distractions, it is hard to sit down, let our imagination wander, and simply dream. This tour manages to address this new concern with one of the oldest stories in human history, making for an enjoyable experience safe to discuss with any company.

*This story is by Emily McMurray

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