I grew up going to church regularly, so I’m familiar with the story of Joseph and his “coat of many colors.” But even with that background, I can say with confidence that I’ve never seen a version like Drury Lane’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
You wouldn’t be crazy to expect “Joseph” to center on its namesake, the young Israelite boy whose eleven brothers are tormented by his prolific dreams (and father’s favoritism). But while Evan Alexander Smith is extremely talented – and appealingly game – in the title role, the true star and focus is Christina Bianco as the Narrator. The YouTube sensation is best known for her note-perfect diva impressions, which is likely why the entire show takes place in Las Vegas, which Celine Dion, Britney Spears and Cher all have called home.
The Vegas setting significantly alters the story – namely, by making it much more adult than Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famously family-friendly show. This reimagining is recommended for ages 13 and up, thanks to the presence of showgirls, strippers and men in drag, not to mention the seductive Mrs. Potiphar. I have a friend who took kids, only to be startled by the decidedly grownup themes throughout the show.
And although Bianco is indisputably gifted, her affected singing as various chanteuses makes it difficult to follow the plot if you’re not already familiar. I’d even go so far as to recommend a quick refresher (in the book of Genesis or on Wikipedia) on the story of Joseph before you see the show. And while the modern takes on Lloyd Webber’s 1970 music are certainly creative, I found myself wishing they’d dropped the Vegas gimmick at multiple points throughout the show. In particular, Smith’s tour de force rendition of “Close Every Door” and the Brothers’ anthemic “Those Canaan Days” prove that these performers can really sing, and I wanted them to be allowed to show off their vocal cred rather than be relegated to a stunt.
While this original revival, directed by Alan Souza, isn’t exactly my cup of tea, the reaction from the audience indicated that many others were enjoying every moment. The music is truly fantastic, there are some funny moments throughout, and the biblical tale of destiny, courage and the power of dreams remains as inspiring as ever.
So if you’re looking for a fun girls’ night out or a nontraditional date night, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” might be just the ticket. But if you’re expecting the story you learned as a child, beware: this is not your Sunday school Joseph.
If you go:
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Through March 25
Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace