`Dreamcoat' wears well in CTA staging

Musical: Children's Theatre of Annapolis is a good fit for the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice rock opera based on the biblical Joseph story.

Review

Arundel Live

December 18, 2003|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

While most theater troupes have been sending Yuletide heroes including Ebenezer Scrooge and George Bailey to center stage in recent weeks, Children's Theatre of Annapolis has bucked the seasonal trend by reaching back to the Hebrew Bible and the story of Joseph and his dazzling coat of many colors.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has become the most popular of the rock operas by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. (Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar round out that remarkable threesome.)

An inventive pastiche of musical styles and a rather clever take on the story from the Book of Genesis, Joseph is always worth seeing when done well, which is certainly the case at CTA. With a fine male lead, in fact, and plenty of spirited singing and zippy choreography from the rest of the cast, this Joseph will add energy and joy to a special time of year.

At heart, Joseph is an ensemble show with the 11 brothers dancing and singing their way through the Lloyd Webber score with its bows to Broadway, Elvis, country and western, Edith Piaf and calypso.

Children's Theatre provides talented performers to better bring off these clever bits of song and dance.

Jamie Boyle puts his strong voice and gracious presence to work as Levi in the countryish "One More Angel in Heaven," and Iain Sturrock tugs at the Gallic heartstrings with the hilariously teary "Canaan Days," sung as the famine in Joseph's homeland intensifies while the hero's policies have created a food surplus in neighboring Egypt.

Director Jeffrey Glenn Hitaffer splits the female narrator's role among six talented young women who are used individually and as an ensemble to keep the story going.

My preference is for a single narrator who connects more intimately and more knowingly with the audience, but Kelsey Berdeguez, Elena Crall, Amy Leslie, Sarah Espinosa, Katie Gardner and Kristina Tardif sing well, though with varying degrees of polish, and are admirably adept at bringing off Leslie Rausch's snappy choreography.

In fairness to the director, it would have been hard to choose only one.

By contrast, choosing Andrew Lincoln, a junior at Broadneck High School, must have been easy, for he is a sparkler in the title role. His is a legitimate tenor with a handsome upper range and enough power to make the lower register authoritative.

Dramatically, Joseph's job is to move energetically and look cute, both of which Andrew accomplishes with style and verve.

As the show heads into its second and final weekend, three things are needed.

First, the sound system needs to be sorted out by the technical staff at the Pascal Theatre. Segments of last Sunday's matinee were ruined by sound blipping in and out. Pharaoh's Elvis-like song, for example, sounded like fading radio reception, so intermittent was the volume. For an accomplished company playing in a professionally run house, that's inexcusable.

Second, the young man charged with singing that song needs to realize how good he is and start having more fun with it.

Finally, several of the actors - especially the narrators - were fighting off illness when I saw them. Here's hoping they got healthy this week.

Children's Theatre of Annapolis will present Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Anne Arundel Community College's Pascal Theatre at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets: 410-757-2281 or send e-mail to boxoffice@childrenstheatre ofannapolis.org.

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