Facebook Twitter

`Joseph Goes Retro’ - a fast-forward `Dreamcoat’ version

SHARE `Joseph Goes Retro’ - a fast-forward `Dreamcoat’ version

- THE "JOSEPHTHON" continues statewide, with Utah Musical Theatre adding its spin to versions in Cedar City, Provo and Centerville.

In director/choreographer Jim Christian's version, it's "Joseph Goes Retro."Instead of the traditional biblical settings and apparel, Christian has moved his Joseph forward nearly 1,955 years into a time of TV quiz shows, 3-D glasses, "Donna Reed" and "Father Knows Best."

Joseph's Coat is a bright, colorful athletic jacket . . . off the rack from "Seers" with a big, red "J" on the front.

The brothers' rendition of "There's One More Angel in Heaven" has a Sons of the Pioneers feel, complete with an oversize, Sphinx-style coyote.

"Joseph" purists may scoff at this radical approach, but I thought it worked very well.

Christian has filled the stage with talent to spare.

Lean and lanky Tony Purvis, who has a well trained voice, is perfectly cast in the title role.

Those who've seen other productions in the region will recognize one of the area's busiest Pharaohs, David Glaittli.

Guest Equity artist Ty Hreben, making his third trip to Ogden, plays Reuben, featured in the soulful "Those Canaan Days" number. Efred Bojorquez (Levi), bounces his way through the jaunty "Benjamin Calypso."

Melissa A. Backstrom and Erin Hiatt share the Narrator duties.

From start to finish, Christian and his design team have added some clever touches. The jail turns into a 1950s style quiz show - "What's Your Dream?" - with side-by-side podiums for Mr. Baker and Mr. Butler. The stage immediately fills with a TV studio crew and Joseph becomes the game show host, donning 3-D glasses for perceiving their dreams.

The lucky Butler (Daniel T. Simons), turns cartwheels over his lavish supply of wonderful prizes, while the doomed Baker (Jonathon Phipps) has to settle for routine "lovely parting gifts."

The show's other characters are wonderful parodies of film and TV characters from the '50s. Jacob, Joseph's dad, is decked out in an apron and golf shirt, busily tending the backyard grill. Joseph's mother and her friends could have been stand-ins for Donna Reed or Harriet Nelson. Potiphar is rolled onto the stage in a golf cart, fresh from another hot Las Vegas development deal. His seductive wife is a cross between Mae West and Mama Rose.

Pharaoh's retinue of maidens includes a Barbie Doll and a Playboy Bunny. The Caribbean backdrop for the "Benjamin Calypso" has guest shots by Dezi and Lucy.

Opening night, unfortunately, was plagued by sound that ranged from fair to middling.

Beyond that, Jennifer McGrew's costuming, Jim Craig's lighting, Jerry S. Hooker's scenery and Jennifer O'Haley's musical direction, were all first-rate.

MEANWHILE, just outside the Egyptian, a recent Off Broadway hit, "Olympus On My Mind," is running all summer long.

But the family values espoused in "Joseph" must have been "Greek to me" for author Barry Harman and composer Grant Sturiale. While the show is packed with talent (both local and imported) and contains plenty of clever songs and dances, there is an abundance of embarrassing bawdiness and vulgarity.

Justin B. Ivie, who got his musical theater training as one of Jim Christian's proteges at Weber State University, is featured in the dual roles of Jupiter and General Amphitryon, part of his ill-fated masquerade to dally with an earthling (which upsets his son, Mercury, who is also forced to portray Sosia, the general's aide).

Things do get rather complicated when the real General and Sosia show up - causing their respective wives, virtuous Alcmene and brazen Charis - to become rather confused.The cast itself is terrific: Ivie shifting back and forth as the supreme Grecian god Jupiter and the lowly General; Jeffrey Petersen as Mercury, Diana I. Dayley as the beautiful Alcmene, Alex Gunn as befuddled Sosia and Annette Wright as the oversexed, un-der-glamorous shrew, Charis.

In the Greek Chorus are featured Jared T. Fletcher, Corey Atkin and Timothy Letheic Goins as Tom, Dick and Horace (it rhymes with Chorus . . . see?) - augmented by the show-stopping Katie Marie Harrington as "Delores" (hmm . . . also rhymes with Chorus).

You have to read the playbill carefully to decipher that "Dolores" is only in the show because her husband, "Murray the Furrier," has bankrolled the production. He has a fullpage ad in the program and a brief (but highly suspect) bio. Then his wife manages to sneak several of her husband's furs into the show as part of her constantly changing costumes.

Scenery designer Keven Myhre's whimsical setting - a profusion of lavender and gold columns and arches - lets you know right away that this is far removed from the esteemed Classic Greek Theatre Festival.

John Caywood's lickety-split direction, Jennifer Rapp's choreography, Gary Arave's funky costuming and Kathy Belnap's lighting (which doesn't really kick in until after intermission), were all superb.

- Sensitivity rating: Did the Greeks have a word for vulgarity? Or bawdy, double entendres? The show is fun, but some may also find it highly offensive. It's also fairly suspenseful - just waiting to see if Dolores is going to keep herself within the rather tight confines of her costumes.