Acadia Community Theater has gone all Old Testament on stage with this year’s spring production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
This charming and funny – words not normally associated with Biblical fare – Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, directed by Carlene Hirsch, is arguably the most successful of ACT’s recent time-traveling journeys. It plays to the company’s strength – enthusiastic local talent – despite a limited production budget.
The story itself – one of the Bible’s greatest hits – is about the Israelite Joseph, the favorite of patriarch Jacob’s 11 sons. He makes himself so unpopular with his brothers after his father gives him a sumptuously colored garment that they contrive to sell him to the Egyptians while telling their father the apple of his eye has been killed by lions. Joseph’s talent for interpreting weird dreams eventually earns him favor with the Pharaoh and an eventual reunion with his family. The story is told through musical narration and songs that tap into just about every musical genre imaginable.
In the title role, Josh Howie has all the singing chops he needs to interpret Webber’s music successfully – impressive pitch and range and a rich, velvety quality to his tone. One wonders if he could dig any deeper to deliver more of the emotional range of his character.
Two performers who know exactly how to perform a song are Mark Carignan as Simeon and Jacob Sanner as an Elvis-impersonating Pharaoh.
Hilarious highlights include Carignan’s cowboy-style lament as he relates to his father how poor Joseph met his gruesome end in the jaws of lion and Sanner’s spot on Elvis showmanship as he tells Joseph about his dreams of corn and cows, complete with marvelous “doo wah” back up singers.
Another standout is Finn Jordan as both the butler and Isaachar, who pleads for his little brother Benjamin’s life in a comical calypso interlude. Jonathan Bender also is a hoot as Reuben, who mourns in French chanteuse fashion for that lost time of plenty in “Those Canaan Days.” Rob Benson brings to mind the David Letterman show’s Paul Shaffer as the cuckolded Potiphar.
One of the marvels of this community theater is its ability to recruit local men to sing and dance on stage. ACT’s past three shows have demanded a largely male cast. For the most part, they manage to fill those roles with the appropriate gender – a miracle in itself.
In fact, aside from the two narrators, the only female who gets to have her say is in this story is Potiphar’s naughty wife, terrifically played by Alexandra Newell Taylor.
That is not to say there aren’t plenty of women and girls in this show providing some great choral moments. There’s the aforementioned backup ensemble, and of course, the all-important narrators, Jasmine Bender and Mary de Koning, who musically stitch the whole tale together.
How de Koning managed to learn her extensive part while directing two excellent show choirs this spring is a mystery. She pulls it off magnificently. Bender also is great, bringing a lovely mellow alto to her part of the narration.
Laurie Schrieber, Vivian Hyde, Phil Kell and Russell Snyder provided excellent accompaniment. Frank Bachman’s costumes and makeup were fun and evocative, although Elvis looked a tad pale in the spotlight.
While the set design was very minimalist, it had some nice graphics by Sydney Roberts Rockefeller, and Lorelei Wherfritz managed to infuse it with some interesting mood lighting.
Most of all, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is great fun, and at less than two hours, made us sad to leave those desert sands and return to mud season in Maine.
Two more performances at Mount Desert Island High School are scheduled for this weekend on Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, at 7 p.m.
Correction: An earlier version of this article contained an error. Potiphar was played by Rob Benson.