Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Surprisingly Vibrant "Coat"

One of the best parts of being a reviewer is pleasant surprises.

After learning the newest Chanhassen Dinner Theater (CDT) show was going to be Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (JATD) I couldn’t help but wonder - “What are they thinking?! There are so many better musicals they could show that they never have – why return to this campy story?”

I’m so pleased to tell you how wrong I was.

I've seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat before, and I have never liked it. Never. But somehow, the actors at CDT managed to make this one of the most engaging and vibrant performances I’ve seen anywhere in quite a while.

A familiar story to anyone who faithfully attended Sunday school, JATD chronicles the story about Joseph, son of Jacob, and his 11 treacherous brothers. Long story short: Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son, even though he’s the youngest. His brothers are jealous and get rid of him. Jacob hits the bottom of the well – literally – ending up in jail and as a slave. He climbs back out through his supernatural gift at interpreting dreams, leads Egypt out of famine, becomes Pharaoh’s right hand man, and is reunited with his family after saving them from starvation.

As the name might imply, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat features an extremely vibrant ‘technicolor’ set. Costumes, props, and everything in between are all doused with most saturated hues imaginable, the blockiest fonts, the gaudiest fabrics. Somehow, it works, perfectly fitting the deliciously mac-and-cheesy-ness of the acting...

...Which is equally notable. CDT is one of the few theaters I can think of with a truly regular rotation of
actors, and having seen many of them in multiple shows, I can easily affirm that this is some of their most solid work. Veteran Keith Rice is particularly spectacular as an Elvis themed Pharaoh, and although he’s only on stage for ten minutes (Doing the splits! Pinching nipples!) he easily steals the second act.

Jared Oxborough perfectly fits the role of Joseph, with a satiny, strong voice and the physique to match. Jody Carmelli brings some of her Xanadu creamsicle persona to the role of the Narrator, which also fits her well. Together, Oxborough and Carmelli head up a delightful ensemble cast that matches their springy steps and ringing voices with aplomb.

JATD is weeknight-date friendly, running along at a clippy pace that finishes in under two hours including intermission. The bright colors and songs are great for people of all ages, and particularly kids – two from the audience have the opportunity to be actors in the show. As a side note, it is also well worth mentioning that CDT has been tweaking their menu gradually for some time now, and the food is definitely performing at a higher level than the past.

With tickets topping out at $81 for two courses and the play, CDT is the only theater around able to provide dinner and a great show in the same location for a very reasonable price. Chanhassen has done a great job with JATD, and I highly encourage readers to check it out – it’s a great way to find some sunshine indoors in the midst of our snowy spring.

JATD runs from April 5 to August 31. Tickets and pricing for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat can be found here.