Opening Nights: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Lose yourself in a sugar coma with an American Idol alum.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right? That goes double for this revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which turns the Seattle Freeze into sno-cones before your very eyes. This show so unashamedly works your last cuddle-nerve that it actually begins with a stageful of moppets, doe-eyed curtain crawlers, and irresistible yard apes lobbing a beach ball back and forth. Is it shameless? Absolutely. Did I resist? Of course. Did I succumb? Instantly. Look: Joseph is basically a broken, 40-year-old gumball machine that takes your money up front then continues to administer frothy musical confections until you're sitting in a sugar coma. It's a Bible tale that, like Where the Wild Things Are, has some pretty scary scenarios for a family show—including attempted fratricide, white slavery, betrayal, and imprisonment. And that's just Act 1, but Andrew Lloyd Webber's poppy melodies and Tim Rice's inane lyrics ("Go go go, Joseph," the chorus cheers as he's shackled in prison) constantly remind everyone that this is a fable without fangs.The show dates from 1968, before Jesus Christ Superstar made household names of Webber and Rice. Though their second attempt at a musical, Joseph was the first to see the light of day. (The 1965 The Likes of Us was finally dusted off and produced four years ago.) Over the decades, Joseph has provided a safety net for a parade of pin-up boys past their prime, including a coked-up Andy Gibb, mullet-head Leif Garrett, ex-Partridge David Cassidy, and Donny Osmond, who did the direct-to-video version in 1998.So that's all the grousing up front. If you like bubblegum, this is all you can endure in one sitting. And after you adjust to just how bright and chipper is the taste, the subtleties start shining through. The kids are cute all right, but they can also sing and deliver their parts with a well-rehearsed wallop. Center stage for most of the show (which runs barely two hours, even with a generous intermission) is American Idol runner-up Anthony Fedorov, who brings Joseph a degree of blondness that would have made Joseph Smith proud. Fedorov belts his part with enthusiasm, but clearly has work to do as an actor. Likewise Jennifer Paz as the Narrator, who lends an Annette Funicello earnestness but often loses in skirmishes with the orchestra over who should be heard most clearly.The biggest hams were also the most fun to watch, and it's no coincidence that the 11 actors who play Joseph's brothers also have the best-written roles. They're a constant source of comic relief; they dance as well as they sing and crack wise, and whenever they're onstage the show roars into fifth gear.No qualms here about Mark Thompson's costumes, Tom Sturge's lighting design (which features more rainbows than a pride parade), or the terrific set work by Martin Christoffel, which reaches back to the '60s for inspiration and creates a feast of garish wonders you could file somewhere between Laugh-In and H.R. Pufnstuf.In summary: I was afraid I'd like this show, and I did.

 
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