Showboat’s ‘Joseph’ is geared toward the TV generation
Written by: David Burke – Quad City Times
Turns out neither was the case.
Director Patrick Stinson’s “Dreamcoat” is almost specifically geared for those who have seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s biblical musical way too many times.
Instead of being by the book, it’s by the screen – the TV screen.
Its lead character, played by Joshua Sohn, starts out not as an Old Testament hero but a guy falling asleep in front of the screen.
He – and we – get barraged by TV shows, including “Sesame Street,” “Star Trek,” “24,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Bonanza,” “American Idol,” “American Bandstand” and others.
Not only are vintage TV clips used, but Stinson also employs just enough pre-taped video moments in a successful multimedia collaboration.
The set, designed by Augustana College theater instructor Adam Parboosingh, puts the huge TV screen at center stage with a scrim that sometimes gives the illusion that live actors are part of the video.
Almost every scene gets played for laughs – and they are plentiful – except for the most emotional songs, “Close Every Door” and “Any Dream Will Do.”
Besides the video element, which is almost a complete success, Stinson has also added to and subtracted from his cast.
Of “Joseph’s” 11 brothers, four of them are puppets – and well-done puppets at that, with a full range of motion and expression.
And in a show with extremely limited women’s roles (Nicole Horton sparkles, as she has all season, as the narrator), several females were added to the chorus.
Sohn doesn’t get to be as showy as Joseph might be in a normal rendition, but he is still strong in the role, part of a summer that has beefed up the resume of the Oklahoma City University student.
Other standouts are Dale Hawes as Jacob and a Shatner-esque Potiphar; Claire Barnhart, despite a scant minute with no lines onstage, stealing the show as Potiphar’s wife; Drew Simendinger as Simeon, the most expressive of the brothers; and Stinson himself as the Pharaoh, with another visual costume gag that’s worth the price of admission. (Those of us in the “Dreamcoat”-weary audience remember when the Elvis-as-Pharaoh gag was the most ingenious part of the show. Here, it’s one of many.)
Stinson also choreographs, including an energetic hoedown and a Charleston.
Theater companies love to produce “Joseph” because it’s a license to print money. Just getting the families of the kids involved (there are 11 here) buying a ticket guarantees a good house.
But Stinson and Showboat give them and the TV generation a reason to enjoy themselves.