Marriott’s New “Joseph” is Dreamy

Many decades ago, before even “Jesus Christ Superstar” began, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice presented a 15-minute pop cantata at a London school, telling-by-singing the “Genesis” story of Joseph and his brothers.

Proving that, really, not just any dream will do—only the big ones, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” evolved into a global phenomenon.

The multi-musical-styled, “Joseph” that so infuriates theater snobs with its infinite accessibility to all ages and backgrounds is back in Chicago’s north suburbs, gracing Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre’s matinee stage during this run of the company’s Theatre for Young Audiences, through mid-May.

And while any professional staging of “Dreamcoat” offers an engaging experience of live musical-theater to young people, this newly-imagined production blows open the doorway to accessibility even wider.

Make no mistake—this is not your parents’ “Joseph.” Patriarch Jacob’s (Bernie Yvon) opening promise that the audience is “in for the coolest, most rockin’” version of the show is largely kept.

The coolness comes from this fresh restaging. Gone is any attempt to recreate the Middle East. The entire cast wears jeans and representative costume elements. Behind Joseph (Brian Bohr), the traditional narrator (Susan Moniz) and Yvon playing all adult males, an ensemble of four men and four women represent Joseph’s 11 brothers and assorted bit parts. They all play numerous instruments onstage, backed up amply with a terrific three-piece pit band.

At times, this production turns into a hootenanny of which Bruce Springsteen would be proud. But for all the varied instrumentation, the simple classical guitar rendition by Alan Schmuckler on “Close Every Door” is this production’s cabaret-performance moment.

Other changes from past productions abound. The newest king of pop takes over for Elvis Presley as this rendition’s Pharoah, while pop culture’s most notable rich egomaniac makes his cameo as Potiphar. Indeed, Lead Artistic Director  Aaron Thielen, Director/Choreographer Matt Raftery and Musical Director Ryan T. Nelson deserve high accolades for their new twist on “Dreamcoat” that deserves expansion and prime-time placement.

One change that doesn’t serve the production well is the narrator’s opening declaration, “All I need is an hour—not two…”

This cast apparently takes her line as a serious challenge, racing their audience from this point through to the abbreviated “Joseph Megamix,” when they take their bows—exactly one hour later. Yes, the pace of a show geared toward families should be rapid. But “Joseph” is a short book by itself, and with additional cuts made for this version, everyone in the room would benefit from an occasional added breath.

Still, at just $15 for adults ($10 for students), “Joseph” aficionados, families and school groups throughout Chicagoland ought not miss this terrific, newly-dreamed rendition of a favorite from way, way back.

Performances for “Dreamcoat” at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, run most Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 a.m., through May 12. Additional performances are March 27th, 29th and 30th at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person and $10 for students or groups of 20 or more (plus tax and handling fees). Tickets may be purchased by phone or in person at the Marriott Theatre Box Office or online at Group tickets are available by calling the group sales department at 847-634-7030. Parking is free. More information is available here or by calling 847-634-0200.