Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Actors' Playhouse; Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2 reviews)

Actors' Playhouse opened revival of its production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on March 9, 2012.
The international musical sensation created by the team that brought us Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar, is a fun, hip, colorful and tuneful adaptation of the well-known Biblical tale of Joseph. The melodious contemporary score features familiar songs like Close Every Door To Me, Any Dream Will Do, and Go Go Go Joseph. Winner of the most Carbonell Awards ever and a favorite among Actors’ Playhouse’s award-winning musicals, Joseph... just had a recent revival and tour in the UK receiving rave reviews. The return of this colorful show validates that everyone’s a dreamer, and through Joseph..., audience members will experience a legacy of pure entertainment for the entire family.
David Arisco directed a cast that included Josh Canfield, Amy Miller Brennan, Nick Duckhart, Celia Lousie Merendi, Henry Gainza, and Christopher Kent.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...it’s heartening to report that the latest edition by Actors Playhouse is a playful and imaginative riff that will entertain audiences who haven’t seen the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical in a while.
...the real stars of this production are Director David Arisco, Choreographer-Musical Stager Barbara Flaten and Musical Director Eric Alsford who imbue the procession of production numbers with the irreverent feel of a cartoon by Warner Brothers or maybe the Blues Brothers.... Arisco and Company have heavily peppered the oratorio with scores upon scores of unique touches of silliness that make you laugh against your better judgment.
But the success of any Joseph still relies on its two leads and Actors Playhouse has two strong smooth performers in Josh Canfield as a fresh-faced Joseph and Amy Miller Brennan as the genial Narrator. Certainly, Canfield (the religious partner in Caldwell Theatre’s Next Fall) and Brennan (Nancy in the Playhouse’s Oliver) don’t set the house on fire, but both have more than enough amiability to win over the audience and undeniably melodious voices to caress the score.

Nick Duckart, the doctor in the Playhouse’s Next to Normal last month, is a delightfully daffy Pharaoh giving the Elvis impersonation required by the role...  Duckart nails the goofball groove better than anyone else in the cast other than the rubber-faced David Perez-Ribada as Jacob’s brother Benjamin.

Noteworthy as well are Christopher A. Kent, a long-time Playhouse stalwart who channels Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast in his droll rendition of  “Those Canaan Days;” Walter Kemp II (late of Hairspray) delivers the lively “Benjamin Calypso,” and Henry Gainza, (the Playhouse’s William Barfee in Spelling Bee), ratchets up the energy quotient with Grand Ole Opry style “One More Angel in Heaven.”
Flaten’s choreography and musical staging are in a class by themselves, covering the wide stage with everything from a hoedown to a tango. Sometimes it’s especially inventive, other times it uses classic moves as an intentionally satirical comment.
After the disastrous sound quality at Hairspray earlier this year, designer Alexander Herrin ratcheted up the audibility and clarity for the Next To Normal. His sound quality for Joseph may even be better; every word is as clear as each individual singers’ diction allows.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Though Actors’ earlier and new productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s college-era musical have some key elements in common, the just-opened Joseph is overstuffed with singer-actors and underperforming as inspired musical theater. Though director David Arisco is again at the helm, with Carbonell winner Barbara Flaten’s inspired choreography once more proving to be the show’s most consistently entertaining element, too much of the new Joseph looks and feels like a battle that the creative team lost.
The overall letdown is odd, because the large cast is full of talented, seasoned performers. Some deliver standout moments: Nick Duckart’s Elvis-style Pharaoh, Celia Louise Merendi’s sharp-but-nimble Apache Dancer, Josh Canfield’s aching Close Every Door as Joseph, Henry Gainza’s country-fried One More Angel in Heaven, Christopher Kent’s tongue-in-cheek Those Canaan Days.

Amy Miller Brennan, an attractive and polished pro with a lovely voice, plays the key role of the show’s narrator.... But Brennan, who has been done no favors by the costume team (design by Mary Lynne Izzo, coordination by Ellis Tillman), isn’t always given enough focus or purpose in the staging. Sometimes, she seems to be wandering through the show’s 30-member children’s choir, randomly patting a kid or two on the head as though they were toddlers.
Anyone new to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat may find this youthful Rice-Lloyd Webber effort sweet, silly and/or charming. But this Joseph doesn’t offer any compelling evidence that a second Actors’ production was a great – or even good – idea.
Actors' Playhouse presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Miracle Theater through April 8, 2012.

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