“Joseph” dazzles at Royal City

I was at the premiere of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” last night at the Massey Theatre, and was pretty much knocked out by an impressive and entertaining spectacle. This was my first time seeing this show – one that I know has countless fans. I really had no idea what to expect. What I experienced was a downright dazzling production.

I must say though, Joseph makes an unlikely hero – he’s pretty spoiled and insensitive from the get-go. Even the show’s director and choreographer, Valerie Easton, admits as much in her show notes, saying that “I don’t blame his brothers for being jealous – in fact he just might deserve to be flung in a pit!”

But hey – at least he dreams big, and, through entirely random luck, is able to make those dreams come true; lord it over the brothers who rather justifiably expelled him; and finally rescue from poverty the family he had abandoned and entirely forgotten about. Good times!

It’s been said that this is Andrew Lloyd Weber before he got overblown and pretentious, and still had a sense of pure fun. And good, silly fun is what this show is all about – it never takes itself seriously and strives to simply entertain with a good story. From the outset, as a children’s choir clad in multicolored T-shirts emerges, accompanying the Narrator, it’s clear that this will be a happy show that aims to leave you feeling good, and the Royal City team delivers.

One thing I’ve always consistently seen at RCMT shows is a high level of stagecraft, and that’s very much in evidence here, delivering one eye-popping tableau after another. Especially when the glittering Egyptian dancers are on stage, the effect is dazzling. Impressive sets also help make a huge impact, and include at least one hilarious sight gag during the “Elvis” sequence that is in itself a comic highlight.

Everyone is in fine form vocally, from Mat Baker and Jennifer Neumann (as Joseph and the Narrator) on down. And the choreography is a whirlwind of shifting patterns that constantly provide the eye with something new and interesting.

The band was in top form, blanketing the fine vocals with a sophisticated and lush backdrop.

The vaunted “Joseph megamix” at the end, I have to say, did not feel in any way necessary, fun though it was. But then again, when “Elvis” returned for a reprise and delivered a scarily spot-on impersonation of pop music’s other ‘King’, well, that alone made the extended finale worth it for me.

But the megamix’s merits are only a minor quibble. All in all, as with every RCMT show I’ve seen, everything is done at a very high level, and you feel you’re in good hands from start to finish. The couple next to us at the theatre were visiting from Germany, and asked if this was a touring company or a group from Vancouver. They were surprised to hear that this was a locally-produced show!

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