AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed by Nancy Fitzgerald-Metzler
Presented by Hillbarn Theatre
1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City, CA / (650) 349-6411

Reviewed by Judy Richter

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is a popular choice for community theaters because it has a large cast, including a children's chorus, and some catchy music -- all surefire draws for an audience. Hillbarn Theatre capitalizes on these assets for its production, then adds some more of its own in the form of lots of good singing and dancing.

"Joseph" was the first publicly performed musical collaboration between composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, who began work on it in 1968 and recorded it as a concept album in 1969. It underwent various changes until its West End premiere in 1973. In the meantime, the two created the successful "Jesus Christ Superstar" in 1970 and in 1976 went on to create "Evita," their best work as a team. Even though "Joseph" is a musical mashup of styles ranging from rock to calypso and country, one can hear some of Lloyd Webber's signature riffs.

The large Hillbarn cast, skillfully directed by Nancy Fitzgerald-Metzler, is led by Noel Anthony in the title role of Joseph, one of 12 sons of Jacob (Bob Fitzgerald) in this Old Testament story. Because Joseph was Jacob's favorite, the other brothers were so jealous that they sold Joseph into slavery and destroyed the colorful coat that Jacob had given him. Joseph then underwent numerous travails before gaining favor with Egypt's Pharaoh (Michael D. Reed in an Elvis-like role) by interpreting his dreams. Eventually all turned out well, of course.

The story is mainly told by the Narrator, played by Lindsay Stark, who sings well and has a charismatic stage presence. Anthony also has good stage presence as Joseph, but he has some pitch problems in his higher range.

Choreography by Brandy Mieszkowski is one of the show's highlights. The choral singing also is good, as overseen by musical director Greg Sudmeier. The singers are accompanied by recorded music.

The playground set designed by Steve Nyberg helps set the tone for this mostly playful show. It also serves as a good place for the 18-member children's chorus to perch. The costumes, a mix of modern and quasi-biblical, are by Carolann Towe. Don Coluzzi's lighting is busy in spots, especially near the end, while Alan Chang's sound design is too loud.

Overall, though, it's a fun show, one that has stood the test of time.

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