Mix in great music and a pantheon of colors and the result is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, an 11-show production presented by Community Arts Theater Society (CATS) at the Performing Arts Center from November 18-December 4. Amazing costumes, moving sets, dazzling lighting and incredible props help the story of Joseph from the Biblical narrative in Genesis come to life.
It’s CATS first time producing the musical, sometimes called an operetta because there is very little spoken dialogue, mostly just music to further the story. Joseph is also the first show in ages not featuring Karen “Sarge” Rachels as director and choreographer. Michael Reno (story page 2) fills both roles, bringing his vision of the show, a personal favorite, to the stage.
The show follows the saga of Joseph, blessed with prophetic dreams and his coat of many colors. “Joseph’s Coat” is one of the show’s many great numbers, describing it in colorful detail, and if that doesn’t create a vivid enough impression stage lighting certainly will. Wildfire blacklight creates a super intense display augmented by red strobe units, all timed to the music by computer, kind of a club feel.
“We use the (PAC’s) revolving stage in a way CATS hasn’t used it in the past,” director Reno said. “It’s a heavy light show to capture the Technicolor look.” Sets by CATS veteran designer Joanne McMaster and Priscilla Anderson’s costumes add to the display.
With so little dialogue the narrator’s role is critical in Joseph and CATS has two good ones on alternating dates. Serena Saunders starred as Annie in last summer’s blockbuster Annie Get Your Gun and brings her sweet voice to the role along with that of Potiphar.
Saunders was in the first three CATS shows more than 20 years ago including one of the kids in Fiddler on the Roof starring the late Leonard Graves. She performed throughout school, and studied classical voice in Orange County before returning to Big Bear. She’s since starred in several shows including Oklahoma and The King and I.
Also appearing as narrator is the very talented Carolyn Freeman Champ. She’s done the role before in a career that has included two national tours, voice over work and numerous productions. With CATS she was one of the Broadway Broads in an original production and Annie Get Your Gun.
“Both are wonderful and unique in their own way,” Reno said. “They’re different interpretations, each equally valid.”
Appearing as Joseph meanwhile is Michael McConnell, whose myriad variety of shows with CATS range from Cinderella to one of the ghosts in A Christmas Carol. “Michael’s got a great voice and the first person I thought of for Joseph,” Reno said. “He’s got a great spirit and personality.”
The cast is probably one of the strongest lineups ever with many members who have headlined other shows, including Adam McDonald as Pharaoh and Elvis, Steve Mangles as Jacob, plus Amber Parle, Suzy Carpenter, John Hendricks and Timmy Brasher. Other performers include Brad Sandstrom, Samuel Rodriguez, Troy Obernolte, Matt Moran, Cheyanna Parde, Michael Robinson, Bob Perry, George Radovich and other CATS favorites.
A terrific score with peppy numbers awaits them, everything from country western and calypso to pop and rock and roll. “Any Dream Will Do,” “Poor, Poor Joseph,” “Joseph’s Dreams” and “Go, Go, Go Joseph” are favorites following the Old Testament story as he survives betrayal by his brothers and imprisonment in Pharaoh’s jail thanks to the power of dreams.
In producing a show which most everyone knows the story, the inherent problem is preconceived notions, and Reno concedes as much. “I’ve gone to what the Bible says to get an idea how old Joseph is and things like that,” he said. “But this is a blank slate and everyone who directs it does it differently. This is theater, not a documentary.”
Shows are at the PAC at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18-19, 22, 25-26, 30 and Dec. 2-3. Sunday 1:30 p.m. matinees are on Nov. 20, 27 and Dec. 4. Ticket prices vary by performance and range from $17-$29 for adults, $16-$27 seniors, under 18 $11-$20. See the calendar on page 13.
Call the Performing Arts Center at (909) 866-4970.