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Aug 10, 2007
V 35 Issue 32

 
 
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Summer Dreams at Taproot
Summer Dreams at Taproot
by Miryam Gordon

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed by Scott Nolte
Extended Through September 1


Joseph preceded Jesus (Jesus Christ Superstar), in the Bible, on Broadway and in the writing careers of Webber and Rice. It's a light, almost too silly, rendition of the story of Joseph and his jealous brothers, who toss him into the hands of slavers, who take him to Egypt, where he has dreams that come true, and eventually finds favor in the eyes of the Egyptian Pharoah.

In Dreamcoat, all the hallmarks of the eventual hits of Webber and Rice are present: the repetitious musical themes, pop lyrics, and operetta style of accessible story-telling. Bet you didn't know that they wrote it for a Junior School choir. In that context, the simplistic songs and silly lyrics make more sense. Why it became a Broadway and international sensation is a bit beyond me.

But for light summer fare, the Taproot production has much to recommend it. You can learn a Bible story (if you hadn't yet heard it). You can enjoy easy-to-understand lyrics and funny songs. It's a fun night out, and can include the entire family (as long as a child can sit still for a couple of hours). Sometimes, being able to take the family makes all the difference.

A few of the twists that Taproot gives the production are refreshing and rejuvenating. The cast is small. Six men and four women perform multiple roles. There are eleven brothers of Joseph, alone, so that means that women, in this production, play men, often. The other fresh change is that this cast is multi-racial and color-blind as far as relationships. In Taproot's case, the role of Joseph is played by Brian Demar Jones, a black actor recently relocated from New York.

Jones' voice is strong and very pleasing. It's nice to see him in a role that a black actor would rarely have an opportunity to play, unless perhaps the whole cast were black. In this instance, race matters not at all, and Joseph's father and brothers are a diverse cast, multi-racial and both sexes.

The set is spare and costumes simple. The idea of somehow being in a Moroccan "night club" fails to inspire and the beginning of each act with a large microphone just seems off-putting and a little odd. In fact, the sound quality of the microphones was so spotty, it was hard to tell when someone was supposed to be amplified by a mobile microphone on his/her head or the overhead microphone at the front of the stage or not amplified at all. Many times, it sounded like the sound tech missed a cue. It's a small, intimate theater, so the idea of not having microphones is attractive, but to have microphone sound, sometimes, and not at all, others, makes listening difficult.

That being said, the ensemble all sounded nice and Joseph (Jones) and the Narrator (Faith Russell) have lovely voices, and were allowed to shine nicely in their roles. The live band, directed by Edd Key, played simply and elegantly, supporting the songs smoothly and professionally without drowning out the singing.

The audience had a good time, applauding after each song, and left smiling. That sums up the evening rather well.

For more information, go to www.taproottheatre.org or call (206) 781-9707.

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