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Donny's 'Dreamcoat' hits the video shelves

When Donny Osmond's hit touring production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" came to Utah two years ago for a seven-week run in Kingsbury Hall, it was, in fact, a dress rehearsal for a video version of the popular family musical.

"The video was initially going to be made in Salt Lake City," Osmond said during an interview from his Utah County home. "We were going to fly in the crew and cast members from the previous (stage) versions and do it all here.

"We were even going to do some scenes in the old Osmond Studios, but things didn't work out with the directors and choreographers, and these plans just kind of fell apart — although that was the whole impetus behind the Salt Lake run."

The show was eventually videotaped with Osmond reprising the title role . . . but it wasn't shot in Utah. In fact, it wasn't shot in the United States but rather at the Pinewood Studios near London.

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" hit store shelves on Tuesday and will be broadcast on PBS stations (including KUED-Ch. 7) in April, in connection with a new "Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" special (narrated by Osmond).

The 1-hour, 20-minute show was recorded, rehearsed and shot at Pinewood during a six-week period. The production team, under the supervision of composer/producer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, took over three sound stages at the legendary London film site.

"One of them was the famous '007' stage," said Osmond. "That's where we did the Pharaoh scenes with the big Sphinx head. That was all filmed in the James Bond area of the studio."

Sir Richard Attenborough co-stars as Jacob, Joseph's father, and Joan Collins plays Potiphar's wife. Osmond found the latter casting "interesting."

"When I first heard about it, I thought, 'Hmmm, I don't know about that,' " Osmond said. "But Sir Andrew himself made the call to Joan and said he wanted her in it.

"I'd worked with Joan years and years ago (in 1983) on another made-for-television film called 'The Wild Women of Chastity Gulch.' Lee Horsely — remember him? — starred in it. I was a Confederate soldier. I was wounded and had to stay in this all-woman town. I was the only guy. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it."

Some people have wondered about Collins being in a musical, but Osmond noted that the role of Potiphar's Wife doesn't require any singing.

"All she says is 'Come lie with me, love.' How much singing quality do you have to have for that?" he explained.

"There's just no way, as hard as you try, to re-create the 'theatrical experience' on tape, so I think what they did was, they made a good decision. They almost made a music video out of it rather than using a static camera and trying to replicate the theater experience."

For some scenes, Osmond said, "We had as many as six cameras shooting at one time, and that's highly unusual on a film shoot. Then they used some unique developing procedures to make the colors pop out more brilliantly."

The vast sand dune scenes were filmed in Pinewood's newest sound stage. "We were the very first production on that brand new stage, and they created a real desert with tons of sand," said Osmond.

"I had never filmed over there before," he said. "My career has mainly been in television. We won't count 'Goin' Coconuts.' I'd like to bury that one," he said.

"You know, there is one thing I miss in the video, and that's the 'Megamix' when the whole cast is in white and I fly over the audience. There's just no way to do that in this kind of production, and Sir Andrew wisely decided against it."

The cast and crew spent one week recording the soundtrack, one week of rehearsal and four weeks of actual shooting.

One nice aspect of filming in London was that the Osmonds' oldest son is currently serving a mission for the LDS Church in England. "We had an opportunity to see him several times," he said. (Another son is preparing to leave on a mission this summer.)

Osmond performed the show on tour, and primarily in Chicago, for about five years. Reflecting on his introduction to "Joseph" in 1991, Osmond said, "When I first read the script, I thought, 'This is something I really want to do' because I really wanted to stretch a bit, especially after doing 'Little Johnny Jones' and failing on Broadway. I wanted to go to the next level.

"Then I started thinking about the jail sequence and the end of the show, when Jacob and Joseph are reunited, and that, in my opinion, was a very big stretch for me — to be convincing as a 17-year-old at the beginning of the show and also as a 40-year-old man in charge of Egypt at the end."

Part of the show's charm, he feels, is the campy edge.

"It really is a kind of tongue-in-cheek situation, and the moment it starts to take itself seriously, it moves into a different area. And since it's from the Old Testament, it's not just a Christian story. All religions can relate to it."

In the meantime, Osmond feels good about the way the "Donny & Marie" daytime TV talk show is going, heading into its third year, and he has other projects.

"I just completed something in New York that was kind of an honor to do. They asked me to narrate a three-hour special . . . called 'The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.'"