One can hardly glance at his or her Facebook news feed without being cleverly implored a time or eight to “Dream BIG!”
Perhaps Tony Award-winner Andy Blankenbuehler isn’t on Facebook.
Because the director of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” playing Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre through March 30, only offers audiences a peek at his dream that might have been. And that happens in the production’s last 10 minutes.
His philosophy for the rest seems to follow the lyric, “Any Dream Will Do.”
In large part, that may be true, because audiences will no doubt flock to the most successfully accessible Broadway musical ever. Following the “Genesis” story of Joseph and his scurrilous siblings by way of every musical genre imaginable, “Dreamcoat” has brought smiles to audiences of all ages and scorn from theater elitists for nearly 40 years. (A full history and synopsis of the show may be found here.)
This Equity national tour delivers a professional production with a touch of celebrity-sighting. Former “American Idol” finalists Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young star as the Narrator and Joseph in what’s serving as their honeymoon tour. (The couple was married nine months ago).
But their signature moment comes via theatrical afterthought. Following Joseph’s reunion with dad Jacob (applause, applause, applause), the two handsome leads return to center stage with handheld mics to perform an absolutely lovely duet reprise of the show’s opening incantation, “Some folks dream of the wonders they’ll do, before their time on this planet is through…”
At that point, true aficionados of musical theater keep themselves from leaping to their feet, screaming, “Where was this at the beginning?” Adding to that emotion, the duet is followed by a stunningly choreographed, simply costumed, cleverly reimagined “Joseph Megamix” with fabulous techno lighting.
These last 10 minutes show the dream that might have been. The preceding hour and 45 minutes, through which the leads generally sleepwalked March 19, offered the impression these two would prefer the concert stage to the theatrical. One patron was heard to say aloud, “These brothers have nothing to be jealous about.”
Indeed. Aside from the curtain call, the production’s greatest musical highlight came in “Those Canaan Days,” when Paul Castree as Simeon and his fratricidal brothers brought the house down with the only thundering ovation evidenced mid-show.
That said, first-time theater-goers will still be generally delighted with the frenetic pace and abundance of color. Patrons returning to beloved familiar material will settle into this pleasant recurring dream.
Terrific performances deserving note include Brian Golub as eldest brother Ruben and William Thomas Evans as Potiphar. Blankenbuehler’s genius as a choreographer is evidenced throughout, and the lighting design of Howell Binkley is first rate.
While endless video projections are largely uninspired and sometimes head-scratch-worthy (trains? fish swimming upstream?), Scenic Designer Beowulf Boritt’s use of varied fabrics cleverly sustains visual interest. Unfortunately, some requisite props or costume enhancements are missing; there are no berets to be tipped during “Those Canaan Days” or anything island-flavored for “Benjamin Calypso.”
All said, the dreams people remember are those providing great delight or shocking horror. The rest are quickly forgotten. Sadly, for its failure to dream big, a challenge that should be second nature to theater professionals, this “Dreamcoat” isn’t truly amazing. It’s merely adequate and will soon be forgotten.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” plays through March 30 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, Chicago. Tickets range from $33 to $95 (plus fees) and are available at 800-775-2000 or through Ticketmaster. More information can be found at Broadway in Chicago’s website.
Barry Reszel is a Libertyville-based writer, at-home dad and executive director of the not-for-profit entertainment company Liberty Town Productions.