A show ‘ahead of its time’

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By Stephanie Holland / Editor in Chief

By Stephanie Holland / Editor in Chief

Anytime a theater company does a production of an Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical, there’s a certain amount of expectation involved. Even more so when that production is “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” one of his most popular and commercially successful shows.

Performance Riverside’s production of “Joseph” opened at the Landis Performing Arts Center on Sept. 17. As a family friendly musical that prominently features a children’s choir, the Sept. 18 matinee attracted a varied audience.

In only its second performance, the company brought to life a fun and enthusiastic version of a theater classic.

Any version of “Joseph,” whether it’s on Broadway or in Riverside, hinges on the portrayal of the main character.

As Jacob’s favored son Joseph, Derek Klena had a big role to embody. Joseph is part teen idol, part savior and his solos require a voice that will command the stage.

Klena tentatively began with “Any Dream Will Do,” an upbeat sing-a-long that establishes Joseph’s likability.

While Klena at times seems too young and inexperienced, he showed great confidence on “Close Every Door.”

This is a soaring ballad that requires significant vocal control and Klena nailed it, finally becoming Joseph.

As The Narrator, Stephanie Burkett Gerson must explain the show’s eccentricities and keep the audience engaged.

She handle these duties exceptionally well, using her soaring soprano to capture the audience.

She opens Act II with “A Pharaoh’s Story” immediately bringing the audience back into the show, making the plot’s craziness seem completely normal.

Act II is also where the production’s showiest character, Pharaoh, makes his first appearance. Pharaoh is played as a Las Vegas style Elvis and Jason Webb really committed to the role and had a lot of fun with it.

In “Song of the King” Pharaoh explains his dreams to Joseph and it’s a full Vegas number complete with screaming fans.

As fun as this song was, it highlighted the show’s major problem, the busy staging.

With a band, singers and back up dancers on stage and a chorus in front of the stage, the stage felt busy, at times forcing the audience to look for the featured singer.

Another distraction was the choreography, which at times was sloppy and will hopefully be tightened up for future performances.

In a show that features music ranging from disco to calypso to western, Performance Riverside invites the audience into the fun, crazy world of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and makes them want to stay a while.

“Joseph” is the opening of a jam packed season that includes “The Sound of Music,” “Curtains” and two workshops and a performance by Tony winning Broadway legend Tommy Tune.

Next up is “Little Shop of Horrors,” which runs Nov. 12-21.

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