A Dual Critics Review by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom [email protected]
Northeast Florida Conservatory Theatre Review
The Northeast Florida Conservatory opened the popular family-friendly musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on July 29th, 2016. Performances continue August 5th -7th in Jacksonville, Florida at 11363 San Jose Boulevard, Building 200. Call (904) 374-8639 or visit nfconservatory.org for tickets and additional information.
“Joseph,” by Tim Rice (lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music), is truly a show that the entire family, including small children, can enjoy. Many musicals have first acts of an hour or longer, but not so for Joseph; the first act is just over half an hour. The show zips along so that even those with short attention spans will remain engaged.
The show began in 1968 as a short cantata written for a religious school. Recordings and small scale productions in varied venues followed, with additional songs added along the way. A West End production was staged in London in 1973, and it hit Broadway in 1982, following the Webber-Rice blockbuster success of “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”
The story of Joseph is one of the best known biblical stories; a story about jealousy, forgiveness, and the power of dreams. While this may sound serious, in the hands of Artistic/Musical Director Richard A. Dickson it is fast and furious and funny.
The key role of Joseph is played by Billy O’Brien. You may remember him for his debut at NFC in the leading role of Curly in “Oklahoma.” He was very good in that role and is even better while portraying Joseph. He and Erin Barnes, the Narrator, sing the majority of the songs and you are going to love them. Erin Barnes is marvelous and adds another fantastic leading role to her impressive resume on our local stages. Matt Barnes, her husband, has a fine voice and is an excellent comic, which he demonstrates as Ruben singing “Those Canaan Days” with a French accent. The Barnes brought along two future musical theatre stars, their children Clara Barnes, a second-grader, and Cason Barnes, a fifth-grader, who appear in the children’s chorus. Both are already well on their way in show business, having done several summer acting camps at Theatre Jacksonville.
Speaking about family connections in this show, Jacksonville theatre veteran Leonard Alterman (over fifty shows!), appears in the comic role of the powerful Potiphar, while his eleven-year-old granddaughter Brynna McCarthy is making her theatre debut in the children’s choir.
Popular musical star Daryl Atkins plays the crowd favorite role of Pharaoh, a takeoff on some guy named Elvis. Joining Daryl on stage are his daughters: Emma Atkins in the children’s choir and Ava Atkins as one of the many wives.
While we enjoyed all the delightful songs, we found a couple that were especially appealing. Andrew Gardner as Dan was a rousing leader in “Benjamin Calypso.” Evan Bowen as Isaachar was joined in “One More Angel in Heaven” by just about everyone in the cast, including a very funny camel portrayed by Ella Bissette and Madeline Gamel.
The cast included: Elizabeth Stermer (Wife) Rick Chapman (Levi), Justin Reynolds (Asher), Sebastian La Branche (Zebulun), Antonio Ramos (Gad), Colin Harden (Benjamin), Ashelee Reid (Judah), Samuel Gamel & Andy Thompson (Ishmaelites), Bethany Paolini (Angel), Mary Terese Bendon (Western Dancer), Rhoda London (Queen Victoria), and Carson Barnes & Andrew Mauney (Lively Lads).
The Children’s Choir included Emma Akins, Cason Barnes, Clara Barnes, Ava Carillo, Megan Cunningham, Jackie Jones, Choe Klein, Andrew Mauney, Brynna McCarthy, Rose Montana, and Ria Saldajeno.
The orchestra conducted by Musical Director Richard Dickson included Jill Morgan (Flute), Robbie Zukauskas (Saxophone), Monia Mathews (Clarinet), Bill Watson (Trumpet), Caitlyn West (Horn), Paul Vrnash (Guitar), Joseph Sanders (Bass), Locke McCormick (Drums), Christina Hiromoto & Christina Smith (Percussion) Cheryl Dolinger (Piano).
NFC, ever anxious to please its ever growing fans, is now miking the principal singers so you will hear every note clearly.
Don’t miss this show – it’s well done and lots of fun. And make plans now for “White Christmas” on this same stage later in the year.