Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – a family-friendly summer of love

With three productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the Vancouver area in less than a year, there is always the chance local theatre-goers might be just a little tired of this coat of many colors. But thanks to an amazing performance by Erik Ioannidis and as diverse a cast as any you will see on any Vancouver stage, the Theatre Under the Stars production currently on stage at Malkin Bowl manages to breathe some new life into this ubiquitously produced musical theatre staple.

Helping to help breathe some of that new life into Joseph, Director Shel Piercy places his version in 1967, the Summer of Love, giving the characters such names as Starshine, Peace and even Che.

Given the family-friendly nature of the show though, this is a somewhat water-downed version of the Summer of Love with the concepts of free love and the drug counter-culture perhaps waiting for another more adult-oriented version of the show.  But tossing free love and drugs to the sidelines doesn’t mean that Piercy shies completely away from the time period, using the anti-war sentiment of the day as a backdrop to Joseph’s incarceration.

Stand-outs here include Ioannidis as Joe whose charisma, singing voice and stage presence made each of his scenes a delight to watch; at only 17 he is definitely a talent to watch.  Brittany Scott’s “One More Angel in Heaven” is Tanya Tucker-licious and Aaron Lau’s “Benjamin Calypso” is full of such energy and fun.

But the real showstopper here features the men of The Tribe (Aaron Lau, Dimitrios Stephanoy, Caleb Di Pomponio, Scott Heatcoat, DaeYoung Danny Kim, Benjamin Wardle, Friedrich Po and Camilo Dominguez) who give us both an incredibly hilarious and incredibly physical version of “Those Canaan Days”.  This is almost a perfect trifecta of singing, dancing and physical comedy.

Josephp and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
The cast of the Theatre Under the Stars production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

And then there are the West End Little Players Guild who plays Joseph’s eleven brothers (the twelfth brother is actually chosen from among some of the younger audience members).  These kids are simply amazing: hoofing it, singing their hearts out and easily keeping up with the older actors on stage.

Speaking of hoofing it, it was great to see Choreographer Keri Minty not backing away from using the entire cast in some of the larger dance numbers by relegating the younger cast members to simpler tasks.  At times though, like some of Director Piercy’s staging, the action does tend to overpower the simple story, but I suppose given how little Andrew Lloyd Webber gives them to work with this is not surprising.

Chris Sinosich’s costumes are bright and fun and mirror the time period well.  Sinosich obviously took great delight in putting together the dreamcoat, complete with not only its many colors but also a peace sign and even John Pasche’s Rolling Stones tongue and lips.

Music Director Kevin Michael Cripps does a good job with his orchestra ensuring they don’t overpower the actors and he has obviously had great fun working with some of them in the variety of musical styles that Lloyd Webber and Rice have used.  His use of the Beatles genre in “Go, Go, Go Joseph” was not only appropriate for the time but coupled with Sinosich’s Sergeant Pepper inspired costumes it was a great way to end the first act.

Finally, with names like Jang, Peluso, Di Pomponio, Woo, Stephanoy, Kim, Po and Ioannidis, this Joseph is indeed a production of many colours.  It is so gratifying to see such an ethnically diverse cast that reflects the diversity of our city and TUTS can stand proud knowing they have helped put the community back into community theatre.

3 1/2 of 5 StarsTheatre Under the Stars
9 July – 21 August 2010
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park

TUTS presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Singin’ in the Rain in repetory under the stars at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl. Tickets are available online or by calling 1-877-840-0457 or at the TUTS box office. Visit http://www.tuts.ca for tickets and information.

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