By Pat Robbennolt
A high-energy extravaganza awaits you at the Cumberland County Playhouse with the new production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Lindy Pendzick brings her enthusiasm to the opening announcements with rousing energy in her welcome; excitement is stirred in the audience before a note of music is heard. A pajama clad second-grader interrupts Ms. Pendzick’s words with a reminder that it is time for the show to start.
The music of Andrew Lloyd Webber surges forth from Ron Murphy and his nine-piece pit band. Leila Nelson has sung the role of the narrator each time I have attended. She serves as choreographer for the show as well as being a dancer, and vocalist. Anna Baker, a new member of the resident company of the Playhouse alternates in the demanding role of narrator. It is the narrator who moves the action of the show in song beginning with “You Are What You Feel.”
An amazing evening of musical theater has begun as Joseph, played by Colin Cahill with his winsome manner and strong voice, joins the narrator and a group of pajama-clad children to sing “Any Dream Will Do.”
Cahill has been with the Playhouse since June. Playing the title role of Joseph is a remarkable way to finish his season here. He has played in The Music Man, Backwards in High Heels, Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge and Big River.
Members of the Kids ensemble that are essential to the show include Sophie and Ellie Burnett, Joe and Josh Norris, Bailey and Emery Smith, Emily and Ava Graham, and Anya Reichers of the Blue Cast. Making up the Red cast of the Kids ensemble are Sasha, Anais and Zachary Villaruz, Christopher Figueroa, Rain Smith, Cally Copeland, Shaylin Morgan, Abby Spigner and Kaydi McCausland.
Cahill as a skilled actor-choreographer brings us Joseph responding to his father’s love, coping with the anger of his brothers, caught in the pain of imprisonment, and gaining release through his understanding of dreams: both his own and those of Pharaoh. Jack Seville plays Jacob the father. Among the twelve sons of Jacob, Joseph is clearly the favorite. Jacob sees his own dreams coming true in this cherished son. The “Technicolor Dream Coat” with which Joseph is gifted, serves to set him further apart from his brothers, raising their jealous (and righteous) indignation. He flaunts the coat, leaping with grace across the stage, touting this symbol of his father’s prejudicial love. Small wonder the brothers agree that the dreamer must go.
There appears to be boundless energy in this cast! Their age range is from second grade through senior citizens. None of the 80 cast members speak a word through the two-hour show. All the dialogue is in song. Britt Hancock, as director, and Weslie Webster, as the assistant director, have done a remarkable job of both direction and coordination.
A well-trained group of youth whose energy and skills in voice and dance are essential to the movement of the show. Red cast members of the “Teen Ensemble” are: Lily Barnes, Ashley Bennett, Perianna Evans, Malachi and Darbi Banegas, Alli Crain, Destiny and Phillip Hall, Demeter Drains, Vikki Avalon, Destiny Goss, Katey Dailey, Mariah McRae. Teen Ensemble members of the blue cast are: Brooke Morey, Caroline Daughtry, Victoria Housley, Derek Wagner, DeAnna Etchison, Olivia Parker, Houston Housley, Abigail Miller-Warren, Amanda Clack, Bryanne Thacker, Madison Lee, Moriah McRae and Darbi Banegas.
There are many Playhouse favorites among the brothers: John Dobbratz plays Reuben (as well as the Butler), Quinn Cason is Simeon (who does a captivating Calypso number in the second act), Jason Ross (uniquely hilarious as he recalls “Those Canaan Days”) brings us Levi, Michael Ruff is Napthali, Greg Pendzick is seen as Issachar. Daniel Black plays Asher, Donald Frison is the agile athletic Dan, and Austin Price is Zebulan. Douglas Waterbury-Tieman is Gad, Chaz Sanders plays Benjamin, Isaiah Banegas and Cory Clark alternate is the role of Judah.
Joseph is tactless in displaying his precious Dreamcoat, leaping with grace across the stage, touting the symbol of his father’s prejudicial love. The brothers agree the dreamer must go.
Daniel Black portrays his false grief as he reports to his father of Joseph’s supposed death singing “One More Angel in Heaven.” The angel that appears high at the back of the stage must be the venerable Carol Irvin.
Mark Stenson plays Potiphar hilariously clad in golfing attire, club in hand. He is the only returning volunteer from the ’05 Joseph production. Dee Hill is priceless as the wife of Potiphar, transported in highest style; she is relentless in her pursuit of Joseph. The narrator adds her voice as Potiphar, Mrs. Potiphar and Joseph sing. The Teen Ensemble joins in a cheerleader inspired number.
Joseph, in prison, continues his interpretation of dreams. Word reaches Pharaoh of his unique skills. Britt Hancock emerges as an Elvis-style Pharaoh. The narrator and the ensemble join in telling the story of the dreams. Members of the adult ensemble are Weslie Webster, Lauren Marshall, Emily Woods, Carol Irvin, Carly Amburn, Lindy Pendzick, Holly Bynum, Christy Sapp, Kim Davenport, Sherry Knox, Terri Ritter, Caitlin Schaub, Rachel Marie, Regina Villaruz, Zach Steele, Margaret Watson, Bob Johnson, Jaton Martin, Mason Angel, Trey Norrod, Houston Housley, Laura Kaluska, Carol Skiles, Bob Ochsenrider, Bob Cleeland, Pat Nelson and Amanda Clark.
If you are not familiar with the Biblical story of Joseph in Genesis 37, you may wish to look for “Joseph (son of Jacob)” in Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. The show follows the story including the remarkable animals of the traders to whom the brothers sell Joseph as a slave.
For a time, the brothers enjoy plenty in the Land of Canaan, their shopping carts overflowing. Times change. “The Brothers Come to Egypt/Grovel, Grovel” they sing with the ensemble, Joseph and the narrator. It is Joseph, the brother they had hoped to destroy, now in the court of Pharaoh. What has happened to their dreams?
Indeed, “Any Dream Will Do.” The dream of the Britt Hancock and Weslie Webster, the supportive confidence of producing director Jim Crabtree and the sponsorship of M. Stewart Galloway, MD, have enabled a dream of a show to play on the Mainstage through Dec. 23. Do order your tickets. It is a show all ages will enjoy together.