Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat• September 21, 2023•Eccles Theater
Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe
The state of Utah has had a love affair with the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for decades. It’s everywhere! Every professional stage to community theater has put on a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s first musical. It’s impossible not to find a production being staged somewhere within the state’s borders. The most recent production was a concert version of “Joseph” at the Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake City.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Concert starred Casey Elliot of GENTRI as the title character and Lexi Walker as the Narrator. The rest of the cast was filled out with an array of talented artists and local well known performers such as Shaun Johnson of The Johnson Files as Pharaoh. The Eccles Theater was buzzing with excitement as the show began. People of all ages filled the venue and I could hear many in attendance talking about how many times they’ve seen this musical, what their favorite production has been, and some of the interesting staging they’ve seen over the years and years of seeing this show. I also heard the name Donny Osmond mentioned quite a few times. Osmond played the title character in Canada, Chicago, and of course right here in Salt Lake City.
The best casting for the entire show might have been that of the One Voice Children’s Choir. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has a children’s choir written into it because the show was originally written for an elementary school. But quite often productions will use women instead of a children’s choir because it can be difficult to put together a choir entirely of children. Having a choir like this in Utah is amazing and implementing this talented ensemble into this musical was a perfect match. First of all, they sounded incredible. Their voices filled the theater and totally enhanced the production. And the aesthetic of having them on stage complimented this being a concert/ loosely staged version of the show.
Casey Elliot did an excellent job as Joseph. While Joseph is the lead character in the show, it can be easy for the character to somewhat disappear. Joseph has scenes where he’s sharing the stage with larger-than-life characters, like the Pharoah, Mrs. Potiphar, or the Narrator. He’s often outnumbered by all of the brothers in a few scenes. I’ve seen many “Josephs” try too hard to keep the attention on them or make their character too over the top to ensure the spotlight. That never works and in many cases has ruined the show for me.
I thought Elliot was very gracious in his approach to the role. Casey let other cast members shine brightly, while still having command of the stage. I imagine being in a vocal group like GENTRI with two other people has given him experience in when to be featured and when to allow others to take center stage. He looked the part, he sounded the part, and he played the part just as I believe people hoped he would. He received the loudest and longest ovation of the night at the completion of his rousing performance of “Close Every Door”. I even saw some people stand up.
While Joseph is technically the main character in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the show does not work if the Narrator is bad. I had the opportunity to see Lexi Walker here at Eccles Theater back in 2021 just as live performances were starting up again. She was part of a production of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. I remember thinking, not knowing I’d have the chance, that her voice would be perfect for the Narrator. So when I saw the casting for this production, I knew I had to see her in this role. She did not disappoint. In my opinion, the show goes as the Narrator goes. It takes on the personality of that actor’s portrayal of the role. I believe it’s the true main character of the show.
Walker’s personality and storytelling were the glue that held the show together and gave it the smooth continuity that is needed in this fast-paced musical. Her vocals were excellent. This show calls for a variety of singing styles and she covered them all nicely. Her performance of “Pharoah Story” was excellent and brought the house down. Not a bad way to start a second act. Walker was great and I hope to see her in the role in the future.
Joseph’s brothers are a huge piece of this musical. They’re not only essential to the plot, but the provide a great deal of comedy throughout the show. This is another area where because there are a lot of comedic moments for these guys, the temptation to oversell it is there. I thought there were a few times that these brothers got close to that, but fortunately, they held back when necessary and really went for it when the moment called for it. Not every song they did was great. But when it was great, it was fantastic. “Those Canaan Days” for example was one of the best songs of the evening. So over the top, but so well acted, sung, and performed.
I initially thought having Shaun Johnson as the Pharoah was an interesting choice. Typically the Pharoah role is performed in an Elvis style. And while Johnson did sing in the style of Elvis style, I don’t think he’ll be mistaken for an Elvis impersonator anytime soon. That being said, he made this role his own and it was hilarious. He had the audience laughing and even included some of them in his jokes. Johnson had great chemistry with Casey Elliot and that made for a great highlight in the show.
I must admit, like the state of Utah, I’m a sucker for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It’s one of the first musicals I have ever seen, and while it’s not the greatest piece of musical work ever written, I do have a soft spot for it. This show is a little too sweet for some people, but it has a lot of heart. As I mentioned, it is really easy to just perform this music and lose a lot of the depth that this show actually does have. I was impressed with how much heart this production had. Especially in the moment of the brothers’ redemption. When that moment is done right, it’s great theater. And this production got it right.
Another production of this musical is most likely in rehearsals somewhere nearby. I hope it has all the heart that Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Concert provided at Eccles Theater.