Valley Youth Theatre’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is a joyous production that makes the heart sing. At least, the audience at the Aug. 15 Saturday matinee certainly thought so. The play, based on the biblical story of Joseph, opened VYT’s 27th season Aug. 14 and runs through Aug. 30 at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe in Phoenix, Arizona.
One would think that a tale of a brother sold into slavery by his jealous brothers—and presumed dead by his father—would be a somber affair, but the music and dancing say otherwise. “The music is one of my favorite aspects about this show,” said Bobb Cooper, VYT’s managing artistic director and director of “Joseph,” in an earlier press release. “It showcases the brilliance of merging musical compositions from different times and places. From the sounds of ancient Egypt to contemporary pop culture, this show has it all: rock ’n’ roll, calypso, country and classic.” Though VYT has produced “Joseph” before, in 2003 and 2007, this is a first for what Cooper calls the “Mega Mix” version. “We have had a lot of fun with it.”
Indeed, the original Joseph would no doubt be astonished to see his brothers having a hoedown or dancing to a calypso beat, and he would probably be more than a bit surprised if he encountered a pharaoh who resembled someone else known as “the King.” But no matter. It’s great fun, especially due to the spirited choreography of Lucas Coatney and Elyssa Blonder. The music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Tim Rice, includes such songs as “Benjamin Calypso,” “Close Every Door,” “Go, Go, Go Joseph” and “Any Dream Will Do.”
As Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph proudly wears his father’s gift of a coat of many colors. He also unwisely shares his prophetic dreams, thus incurring his brothers’ wrath. He survives slavery and prison in Egypt and ultimately triumphs, even reconciling with his brothers and again donning his spectacular coat, one of Karol Cooper’s many outstanding costumes.
Onstage almost continuously in VYT’s production is the musical’s Narrator, Payton Bioletto, a VYT veteran since the age of 9, who has “the voice of a seasoned professional,” according to Cooper. Early in Saturday’s performance, she proved herself to be a seasoned professional in more ways than one when she deftly overcame what appeared to be a problem with the sound by picking up a hand mic until it was no longer needed. Whether it’s singing, dancing, or keeping her cool, she can do it all. Now a junior at Xavier College Preparatory, Payton played Tiger Lily in “Peter Pan,” Francisca in “West Side Story,” Isa in “Dora the Explorer LIVE” and Rabbit in “Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” at VYT. In addition, she appeared as Bebe in “Chorus Line” at Spotlight Youth Theatre and took the lead in “Annie” at the Broadway Palm.
Newcomer Nathan Sheppard brings his rich voice to the VYT stage as Joseph. It’s easy to believe he’s the dreamer who unwittingly evokes his brothers’ jealousy. Though “Joseph” is his first VYT production, he previously played Marius in “Les Misérables” (Musical Theatre of Anthem), and Ren in “Footloose” and Warner/Emmett in “Legally Blond Jr.” (Sandra Day O’Connor High School).
Also new to VYT is Pharaoh Jack Rose, aka Elvis. If it looks and sounds like Elvis, could it be that Elvis never left the building after all? Besides evoking much laughter, Rose’s performance makes one wonder. A senior at Brophy College Preparatory, he played Edna Turnblad in “Hairspray” at Greasepaint Youtheatre.
Many talented local performers round out the cast as Joseph’s brothers or as members of the Male and Female Ensemble and the Children’s Chorus.
Tickets for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” may be purchased online or by calling the Herberger box office at 602-252-8497. The Herberger Theater Center is located at 222 E. Monroe St. in Phoenix, Arizona.