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'Joseph' impresses with enormous, high-energy performance


Phoenix Theatre's production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," opening this weekend at the Sheldon Theatre, isn't so much a play as it is a celebration.

The nearly 75-minute performance barrages the audience with song, dance and whimsy to the point that I almost felt exhausted when leaving the theater. But, after a few minutes of humming the catchy tunes, I had the undeniable urge to see it again.

Originally penned by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, the play is a musical retelling of the Book of Genesis story about Joseph and his coat of many colors.

The favorite of his father's 12 sons, Joseph, played by Andrew Kreye, draws the ire of his siblings over his preferential treatment. In a fit of jealousy, brother Reuben, played by Seth Hannasch, and gang deface Joseph's coat and sell him off to slavery in Egypt.

But Joseph, a prolific dreamer, soon finds unexpected success as dream interpreter for the Pharaoh, played by Kevin Funk, who just so happens to resemble Elvis.

The play is absurdly anachronistic in the most wonderful way possible. Along with the Pharaoh shaking his hips like the King, the musical numbers run the genre gamut from country western to '60s pop - complete with suitable and equally enjoyable costume and set changes.

Kreye is cast perfectly in the role of Joseph. Not only does he have the pipes to carry the challenging song "Close Every Door," Kreye also brings an air of playful innocence that is simply a joy to watch.

He is the kind of outgoing and non-threatening lead that will please audiences young and old alike.

But the standout performance at Thursday's premier was by Nicole Wells as the story's narrator. From the opening number, Wells set the standard with her booming vocals and charismatic stage presence.

She exudes a bubbly, infectious enthusiasm that is equal parts heartwarming and smile-inducing.

Assisting the cast's impressive singing talent are a children's choir and pit orchestra. When all the parts combine, the resulting sound fills the Sheldon with an almost overwhelming crescendo.

The sense of scale for the production is remarkable, with the occasionally cramped stage looking as though it could be transferred to a venue twice the size with ease.

Even more impressive, the stage is built as a sloping ramp, giving an interesting sense of depth and perspective that adds further to the spectacle. It's a subtle choice, but evidence of the obviously high level of thought that went into the production.

Like the titular garment, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is every bit as colorful, chaotic and fun. Impressive singing and high energy make this electrifying performance a perfect fit for all ages.

If you go ...

What: "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

When: 7 p.m. today; Performances return 7 p.m. July 19 and 20, and 2 p.m. July 21. The July 20 performance will have two interpreters for the hearing impaired Where: Sheldon Theatre, 443 West Third Street

Cost: $20.50 for adults, $14.50 for students

More info:

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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