by Shirley Lorraine
Joseph Rocks Simi Stage
Ready for some high energy, off the charts action and exciting stage work? Then Actor’s Repertory Theatre of Simi’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is where you need to be.
Playing now at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center through August 21, this staging is exciting, colorful, surprising and filled to the brim with high-quality talent.
Extracted from the Bible’s Book of Genesis, Joseph is the story of a young man heralded, banished, enslaved, heralded again and finally triumphant as he and his dreams lead Egypt to glory.
The sung-through play marked the first staged collaboration of the uber-successful team of Tim Rice (lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and ranks as one of the most staged productions world-wide. Why? Because not only does it tell a story well, it is also simply a rocking fun time. The musical styles vary widely, costuming is vibrant, and the choreography is outstanding, keeping the audience enthralled throughout.
A live orchestra accompanies the operetta, although frequently the electronic instruments’ amplified volume drowned out the strings completely. The singers, while equipped with microphones, really had to push to be heard over the accompaniment. As a result, much of the actual story line was masked under the music. Take a synopsis with you to get the whole story. Or just enjoy the sheer velocity of the piece.
You’ll be swept up immediately even if you miss a few details.
My guest, a degreed musician, commented about the need for balance among the instruments. When the story line is sung, to get the full effect it is imperative that the words can be heard. By the second act our ears had acclimated to the volume some, but we found the most enjoyable moments by far to be Joseph’s solo songs when his clear voice shone, and the beautiful message could be heard in full.
In this version there are two narrators, Siena Avila and Mia Vavasseur, who complemented each other quite well. Both have strong stage presence and quality voices. Vincent Perez as Joseph is a force of nature. His portrayal is powerful, compelling and spot-on vocally. An extremely entertaining performance is given by George Chavez as the Pharaoh, who commanded the audience expertly.
The large ensemble cast carries off their multiple personas with verve. The spotlighted character moments give many individuals their opportunity to show additional talents. The bevy of beautiful wives and dancers, along with the highly capable men and the children’s chorus round out the action nicely.
Direction by Jesse Saywell is creative and tight, choreography by Becky Castells is well suited to the dancers and well executed. The eclectic mix of costuming styles is a delight. The entire crew is to be commended for their contributions to this greatly enjoyable presentation.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues through August 21. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. on August 13 and 20. www.svvac.org, 805-583-7900.