July 16, 2018
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  • “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” combines all the vibrancy and fun that makes the musical unique without losing the heart and humanity of the story.
    “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” combines all the vibrancy and fun that makes the musical unique without losing the heart and humanity of the story.

Toby’s “Joseph” Shows Why This Musical Has Staying Power

Dylan Roche
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July 12, 2017

Toby’s Dinner Theatre has managed to strike a careful balance with its latest production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera that has just as much colorful eclecticism as the title would suggest. It’s a show that’s straight-up fun, but do it without at least a little bit of theatrical reserve and it runs the risk of becoming nothing more than a glorified variety show.

It should come as no surprise, however, that the company’s artistic director, Toby Orenstein, and associate producer, Mark Minnick, knew what they were doing when collaborating in their direction of this show. They give the musical its combination of humor and heart but also, and probably most importantly, its humanity.

Although “Joseph” has been produced time and time again by countless theater companies since the ‘60s, it’s a show that never seems to get old. Retelling the biblical story of Joseph — the favored son of Jacob who is sold by his jealous brothers into slavery but eventually rises to political prominence in Egypt — the musical combined varied styles (rock and roll, country, calypso, jazz and others) with plenty of anachronisms, tongue-in-cheek jokes and lots of fourth-wall breaking.

This production has all the lively dance numbers (Minnick pulls double duty as director and choreographer) and vibrant costumes that an audience would expect from “Joseph,” but the highlight of the show is still — as it should be — Joseph and the Narrator.

In an inspired casting choice, this production makes use of the talent in the Toby’s company by featuring five women in the sole female role of the Narrator. But instead of having them share the stage together — as they often do in high school and community theater productions, thus diluting the character’s effectiveness — this production rotates Narrators every few weeks. It’s a bold choice, but if each one of the Narrators is as good as Janine Sunday is in the role, it’s one that pays off.

Sunday serves as the connection between the audience and the other characters, and she’s every bit the warm and engaging storyteller that makes you want to listen. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she has a beautiful, larger-than-life singing voice you have to hear to believe.

When she’s not addressing the audience directly, the Narrator is there to be Joseph’s unseen mentor, encourager, critic and advocate. This is especially important because (let’s face it) in the beginning of the show, Joseph isn’t a very likeable character. Toby’s newcomer Wood Van Meter succeeds in portraying the young hero’s character arc as he goes from arrogant favored child to dispirited prisoner to brave leader.

Together, Sunday and Van Meter make this story of a biblical hero one that’s relatable and believable for a modern audience. They’re supported by a strong ensemble of other characters, particularly David Jennings in a spot-on Elvis imitation of Pharaoh.

In short, this version of “Joseph” is what it’s supposed to be — a fast-paced, good story told in a way that’s irresistibly fun.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” runs at Toby’s Dinner Theatre through August 27. For ticket information, visit www.tobysdinnertheatre.com.

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