Nancy Sasso Janis
- OnStage Connecticut Critic
"Don't give up Joseph. Fight 'til you drop. We've read the book and you come out on top."
Danbury, CT - Danbury Cultural Commission has underwritten the 2016 season at Musicals at Richter which opened with a spirited ‘Hello, Dolly!’ and continued with the wonderful dancing in ‘Footloose.’ The regular season at CT’s longest running outdoor theatre closes with a rainbow production of the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber classic, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.’ Jane Matson, the choral director at Newtown HS where she directed ‘Joseph’ back in 2012, made her directorial debut at this venue; her experience working with young performers was evident in the youth-friendly choices that she made.
As the director pointed out in her notes, Andrew Lloyd Webber created this technicolor piece to showcase different genres of music that should appeal to the whole family. Young audience members will enjoy the constantly changing production numbers and the excellent youth ensemble that listens to the narrator sing the story of Joseph seldom leaves the stage. Everyone can enjoy the humor (I mean, an Elvis Pharaoh!) and the rainbow of beautiful costume designed by Ms. Matson and coordinated by the show’s producer Lauren Nicole Sherwood. There were the usual props for the country “One More Angel in Heaven,” the Caribbean “Benjamin Calypso,” and French “Those Canaan Days.” There were also some surprises that updated the production that I loved. Both acts were a feast for both the eyes and ears.
The small orchestra was conducted by Tom Morris and Kieran Minor on keyboard 1 helped to keep his sisters Olivia and Viola on key in the youth ensemble. The aforementioned youth ensemble, students as young as fourth graders and many with ties to Newtown HS, looked great in their rainbow of t-shirts and they sang sweetly. Eight ladies played wives of the brothers and Egyptians.
Bobby Bria took on the Elvis as Pharaoh role and, as always, he was terrific in the role. John Armstrong joined his son Jack (who played Dan) onstage to play both Potifar and the patriarch of “Jacob and Sons,” while Western CT State University junior Lexi Tobin returned to MAR to play Potiphar's sultry wife. Joseph’s conniving brothers were played by Brailyn Rodriguez, Brian Salvador, Rachel Salvador, Ismael Santana, Jack Armstrong, Marco Fiumara, Brian Hinger, Jacob Schultz, Noah Matson, Brian Bremer and Karl Hinger. The brothers sang well in their chorus and those that stepped up to sing the lead on their number did well.
Connor Spain (Link Larkin in ‘Hairspray’ and Chuck in ‘Footloose’) returned to MAR to star as Joseph and he brought the title character to life with grace. His best solo was “Close Every Door,” done by candlelight. It was a treat to see the talented Katie Cummings again on this stage, this time in the challenging role of the Narrator. I think this may have been only the second time that I have seen this role sung through by one actress; all the other times it was shared by at least two performers. Ms. Cummings, a graduate of Newtown HS, sang with a lilt in her voice and showed off her wonderful stage presence throughout her performance. This young singing actress played Tracy last year in ‘Hairspray,’ just completed her MA at UCONN and will begin her teaching career in August in Watertown, I hope that she manages to squeeze in a role or two in the near future.
I was touched that Ms. Matson gave members of the youth ensemble a chance to take the handheld microphone for a solo during the “Joseph Megamix’ that closed the show. Family members in the audience loved it and so did I.
‘Joseph’ runs under the stars through August 6. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students (with ID), and $10 for children 10 and under. For the additional Thursday performances on July 28 and August 4, tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students and $5 for children 10 and under. Tickets may be purchased through the Musicals at Richter website (www.musicalsatrichter.org) or at the door. Grounds open at 7:15 p.m. for picnicking, with curtain at 8:30 p.m. It was warm enough on Sunday that I didn’t need a winter coat, but I put on my hooded sweatshirt for protection against the bugs; don’t forget the bug spray!
David Henningsen Photography