Jubilation abounds at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson currently celebrating its 50th year. Their landmark season is in full bloom with a dazzling production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
The writing team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice found success 50 years ago with their shows based on biblical themes. Riding on the coattails of their collaboration on Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph is based on the story of Joseph in the Bible’s Book of Genesis.
We meet the narrator, played by Sari Feldman, who gives a tour-de-force performance as she relates Joseph’s story to the children’s choir (weaving sweet tones, they are dressed in tie-dye t-shirts and assembled on bleachers), as well as the audience at large. She tells of Joseph, portrayed by C.J. Russo (engaging in this leading role of the dreamer), who is capable of interpreting dreams and telling the future, including his prediction that he is destined to rule over his brothers. This prediction threatens his 11 brothers, who are additionally jealous since their father, Jacob (Douglas J. Quattrock, a Theatre Three staple) has shown outward favor by gifting Joseph with a coat of many colors. The jealous sell Joseph as a slave to some passing Ishmaelites who take him in chains to Egypt.
In “One More Angel in Heaven,” the remaining 11 sons make up a very tall tale for their father, relating how Joseph died. Their barely controlled joy is comical with the son Reuben, Eric J. Hughes, trying to contain his effervescence through mock sadness. Hughes gives a standout performance with his comedic timing, rich vocals and lithe dancing.
In Egypt, Joseph is the slave to a rich man, Potiphar (an animated Quattrock). Joseph is favored by his owner and is allowed to rise through the ranks until Mrs. Potiphar (Nicole Bianco, sensual with high kicks and an amazing split) makes advances toward him and the two are caught by Potiphar, who immediately throws Joseph in jail.
Joseph meets two prisoners, the Baker (Ryan Worrell) and the Butler (Kyle Breitenbach), both former servants of the Pharaoh who relate their disquieting dreams. Joseph interprets the dreams and gives good news to the Butler that he will return to service but tells the Baker that he is destined for execution.
The Pharaoh (Andrew Lenahan), decked out in Elvis Presley attire, confides in the Butler, who has returned to service, of his recurring dreams and desire for explanation. The Baker suggests a meeting with Joseph who will surely interpret them.
Lenahan, in “Song of the King,” gives a lively Elvis performance replete with signature twists and turns. The Pharaoh is so impressed with Joseph, he makes him the second most powerful man in the land.
Joseph eventually meets up with his brothers when a famine strikes, leaving them starving and in dire need of help. Will he turn the other cheek, forgive his brothers and help them? See for yourself.
Joseph did not receive worldwide recognition until after Rice and Lloyd Webber’s success with Jesus Christ Superstar. Joseph started as a 15-minute pop cantata presented at Colet Court School in London, 1968, then in 1969, Decca Records recorded an expanded version.
In 1970, Joseph received an amateur stage production in the United States. This was followed by the first American release of the album in 1971. The Edinburgh International Festival produced a 35-minute production in 1972 which was later rewritten and expanded until it became an almost two-hour musical produced on Broadway in 1982. This enduring musical received several major revivals in the West End of London and on Broadway, national tours and a 1999 film starring Donny Osmond.
Theatre Three’s Joseph is a delicious technicolor explosion thanks to costume designer Ronald Green III and set designer Randy Parsons.
Jean P. Sorbera’s choreography is high-spirited and bubbly. The orchestra, under the adroit direction of Gregory Franz, maneuvers through Lloyd Webber’s pop cantata appearing equally as comfortable with country western, calypso, French chanson and Elvis-style rock. And Jeffrey Sanzel’s energetic direction makes for a blissfully frenetic romp.
See Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Theatre Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson, through March 21. Visit theatrethree.com for tickets.