If Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has the feeling of a school show done large, it should come as no surprise that it was originally commissioned by a London Prep School as a piece for their boys’ choir.
This early collaboration of then-teenage composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and 20-something lyricist Tim Rice started out as a 15-minute pop cantata. But after the success of their subsequent collaboration (Jesus Christ Superstar), it was eventually developed into a full-fledged musical. Healdsburg’s Raven Players has a production running at the Raven Performing Arts Theater through July 16.
It’s the sung-through story of Joseph from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. For those who haven’t read that tome in a while, fear not. The Narrator (Stacy Rutz) introduces us to Joseph (Elliot Davis), son of Jacob (Hans Grini). Joseph is Jacob’s favorite, much to the consternation of his 12 (or is it eight?) brothers. It’s bad enough that Jacob favors Joseph and gifts him with a magnificently colorful coat. But when Joseph starts dreaming about ruling over them, the brothers plot to kill him.
Deciding it’s better to make a buck off the deal, they sell Joseph into slavery. One thing leads to another, and before one knows it Joseph is second-in-command to Pharaoh (Joe Caruselle). Famine and drought force the brothers to travel to Egypt, where they beg for food from the vice-pharaoh. Joseph recognizes them, but they don’t recognize Joseph. Is it time for Joseph’s revenge?
Webber and Rice jazz up the biblical tale with a mixture of musical styles and clever lyrics, including a country hoedown as the brothers musically celebrate their deed (“One More Angel in Heaven”). Pharaoh bears a striking resemblance to another king, while ludicrous French accents accompany “Those Canaan Days.”
It can be very challenging to mount a large-scale musical these days, but director Joe Gellura was up to it. He gets strong vocal and character performances from Rutz and Davis in the leads and good support from the large ensemble. The nine-piece orchestra led by Les Pfultzenreuter is absolutely solid. Large dance numbers by choreographer Bridget Codoni may lack some precision, but the ensemble is clearly giving their all.
Clocking in at blissfully brief 95 minutes including intermission, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tells its 3,000-year-old tale of forgiveness and redemption with vim and vigor.
‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ runs through July 16 at the Raven Performing Arts Theater, 115 North St., Healdsburg. Thursday–Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 2pm. $10–$40. 707.433.6335. raventheater.org.