Review: ‘Joseph’ a delight at Red Mountain

Ethan Hardy Benson in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” (Photo by Stewart Edmonds)

There’s a lot to like about Red Mountain Theatre’s delightful production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and a little bit that needs work, judging from a preview performance of the show that officially opens Friday night.

Director/choreographer Stacy Alley’s take on the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical, based on the Biblical story of Joseph, his coat, his brothers and his dreams, is fast-moving and energetic. It’s buoyed by spirited dancing and wonderful costumes by Kendra Weeks.

And then there’s the cast, led by RMT newcomer Ethan Hardy Benson in the title role and a wonderful Amy E. Johnson in the pivotal role of the narrator.

Benson has the voice and the boyish energy to bring Joseph, one of the youngest of Jacob’s 12 sons, to life. If you know your Bible, you know Joseph’s life is filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and Benson does a good job with all of it.

Though Benson is considered the star of the show, it’s hard to put into words just how much Johnson brings to the role of the Narrator. Her voice is crystal clear, and what she can accomplish with a simple facial expression – particularly when working with the talented children’s choir on stage – is a sight to behold. Johnson really is the heart and soul of this production.

There are many other highlights, including Barry Austin’s Jacob, Blake West’s turn as brother Reuben and Kyle Holman’s delightful Pharoah, who evokes Elvis better than other Pharoahs I’ve seen on stage.

The rest of the brothers perform largely as an ensemble, and in that regard, they shine, particularly with Alley’s choreography.

One problem with Wednesday’s show – and please remember it was a preview performance, meaning it was essentially a dress rehearsal – was the sound.

Music director Katie Holmes and Electronic Music Designer Anthony Smith collaborate on bringing the eclectic score to life, and they do it well, but on Wednesday it was way too loud. The actors seemed to be competing with the music – sometimes losing and being drowned out – and some ensemble numbers were oddly muffled and faint. “Go, Go, Go Joseph,” for instance, the Act I closer known for its exuberance and for being boisterous and energetic, sounded as if it were being sung by people off stage rather than on stage – It was pretty dull and muted.

But that’s a quibble and something that hopefully will be fixed before Friday’s opening.

Let me leave you with this: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is fun and entertaining, a showcase for actors obviously having a great time on stage. And if nothing else, it’s worth go, go going to see and hear Amy E. Johnson, a powerhouse talent at the top of her game.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” at Red Mountain Theatre July 21 through Aug. 13. Buy tickets here.

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