While driving home from seeing Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s latest production of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat,” my tween daughter put it best when she clicked her seatbelt and said simply, “That is just one of those shows that never gets old.”
Certainly as one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s earliest works, she is technically wrong, but the show’s open structure allows directors to play with the script and staging to keep it fresh and fun. Thus is the case with TMP’s version of the Biblical saga of Joseph and his coat of many colors and his rise from being a man sold into slavery by his brothers to becoming the ruler of Egypt.
While Webber used themes and riffs from the show in his future works, TMP opted cleverly for the reverse. This was a brilliant move because it allows folks who have already seen the show a billion times to play "Where’s Waldo?" with the homage to Webber’s other works. Sure the “Cats” appearance and the “Phantom of the Opera” mask were the obvious additions; there were certainly others that were a bit esoteric. Gosh, that was a fun exercise in Webber canon trivia.
But as the backdrop of that trivia challenge was a solid performance all around.
As the story of Joseph’s dream interpretations goes from being an annoyance to his brothers to the prize of the pharaoh’s court, there is an adventure of fun and spirited lessons for the children in this play-within-a-play scenario that brings the past to the present with an initial setting of a museum that comes alive.
The performance itself was solid. And you would expect that from just reading the playbill. Matthew Posner as Joseph added a bit of something-something because, well, let’s face it, he is not a pinup model sort of guy, but he has a set of pipes and a heart for theater that makes him stand out. And he does in this show because he plays the role to his strengths.
Joseph is a bit of a bumbling son, who does not know why he is having these dreams of greatness, just that he has them. Perfect. That avoids the often sense of arrogance that other actors would have overplayed, thus ignoring the idea that Joseph is the hero of the story.
Anchoring the story from the past to the present is a duo of bookend narrators, Elise Campello and Cherity Harchis. Both keep the novel approach to this story going along. While Campello has well established herself as the go-to-girl for power ballads, Harchis challenges that standing in this performance after bit parts in “Happy Days.” See, Campello underplayed her role in “Footloose” earlier this year and now has to step up her game with Harchis gaining ground. It is hard to say, but in a match line for line, Harchis might have the edge. Anyone who follows South Sound theater knows what that means. A diva battle is brewing and every theatergoer is going to benefit. Both really need a marquee roll, stat.
Andrew Fry did well as Jacob, but it was largely a filler roll. Steven Barrett, most recently seen as the Fonz in “Happy Days,” served up a passable performance as the pharaoh. It just jump the rope from “this is a guy acting” to “this is a believable character.” Granted he was playing the pharaoh as Elvis, but it just needed more.
What stood out in this show was the dance numbers. TMP founder and choreographer Jon Douglas Rake has upped his game in this show. Maybe it has something to do with his recent birthday, but the moves were solid and sharp.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through July 29. 7116 6th Ave. Tickets are $20 for children and $27 for adults at www.tmp.org.