Long before "Evita," "The Phantom of the Opera" and the musical version of "Sunset Boulevard," composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and his lyricist buddy Tim Rice teamed up on what they termed a "pop cantata" for a school choir that ran for all of 20 minutes.
That was in 1968. Since then, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" has evolved into one of non-professional theater's most popular offerings, a biblical story combined with satirical treatment of myriad musical genres.
At Golden West College, where Martie Ramm is directing and choreographing the latest incarnation of "Joseph," she writes in the program notes that "It is almost too much fun for one director to have."
It's a good deal of fun for the audience as well.
GWC's "Joseph" is a sprawling production teeming with actors, singers and dancers — more than 30 in all — who fill the Mainstage Theater to overflowing as they spoof various performance styles in a true ensemble delight. Webber and Rice took potshots at everything musical from country-western to French ballads to Elvis, all of which, of course, are far in the future.
As the show's title character, Tony Graham is a robust figure of wide-eyed innocence, spoiled unmercifully by his father (Nick Charles), which leads to near-fratricide at the hands of his 11 brothers, who sell him to Egyptian traders as a slave. This lands him in the clutches of a nobleman (Jonathan Dean) and his predatory wife (Amanda Shay, ravishing on short notice as a cast replacement).
Dean returns as the Pharaoh, and his performance style rocks the house, though it's not so much of a surprise as it once was, due to the show's growing familiarity, while Joseph gains stature and a measure of revenge on his siblings.
Nearly as prominent as Joseph is the show's narrator, a lovely lady in modern dress who acts as a sort of ringmaster for this three-ring circus. Katie Del Vecchio, sweetly impressive on opening night, alternates with Lauren Cicerone in this assignment. She spins the biblical adventure to a group of 11 young girls, who chime in as part of the abundant chorus.
Musical director-conductor Rick Heckman keeps the tempo high, though the instrumentation too often drowns out the singers' lyrics. Susan Thomas Babb's costumes are first-rate, as are Robert Mumm's lighting effects and Dave Mickey's sound design.
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is a tuneful and energetic exercise laced with ensemble excellence and the youthful budding genius of a master composer at Golden West College.
TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Independent.
If You Go
What: "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
Where: Golden West College Mainstage Theater, 15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach
When: Closing performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Cost: $18 to $20
Information: (714) 895-8150 or http://www.gwctheater.comCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times