'Dreamcoat' staging offers fun with new twist Colorful production puts Old Testament on beach


When all is said and done, I guess I'm not a purist.

If an opera director chooses to have his Guglielmo and Ferrando sporting Joe Cool sunglasses and Armani suits in his production of Mozart's "Cosi fan tutti" I can live with it, assuming the dudes can sing, of course.

Heck, my favorite version of "Antigone" has Sophocles' tragic King Creon dressed more to fight Klingons than to uphold the lTC power of the ancient Theban state.

So I maintain my equilibrium when I tell you that J. B. McClendon, director of the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre's production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," has turned the Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber Old Testament rock opera into a beach party.

You read it right: halter tops galore, Frankie and Annette choreography, ankhs and cartouches decorating the surfboards, Jacob the Patriarch decked out in Bermuda shorts and a floppy sun hat, and the 12 fathers of the Hebrew nation wearing Mousketeer ears.

But let's remember that Rice and Lloyd Webber weren't biblical literalists themselves, as they turned the Egyptian Pharaoh into an Elvis impersonator and crammed their score full of calypso, cowboy and Parisian ditties that aren't exactly the stuff of fundamentalist authenticity.

However goofy the premise, though, you're going to have a wonderful time watching ASGT's "Joseph." It's funny and colorful, there are clever bits everywhere, and, most important, there's talent all over the stage.

Tiffani Baldwin's choreography has the ensemble numbers looking especially sharp and smart. Staging for "Poor, Poor Pharaoh" and "Father We've Something to Tell You," for example, is snappy indeed.

Jeremy Ragsdale of Broadneck High is excellent in the title role. His songs are delightful, and he is a charismatic presence on stage, despite his tender years.

I loved the nattily attired Doug Dawson in Potiphar's soft-shoe number, and Carol Cohen is hilariously sleazy as his floozy wife.

Michael Davis is commandingly Elvis-like as Pharaoh.

Other highlights come in the Gallic absurdity of Brock Ballard's "Canaan Days" and in Jason Vellon's hilarious Carmen Miranda impression in "Benjamin's Calypso."

And speaking of Benjamin, little James Waters stole scenes and hearts as Joseph's youngest brother.

What didn't work was the pairing of Cynthia Lasner and Andrea Hughes-Ostrowski in the narrator's role. Either could have done the role solo. They're pretty talented singers, but with all the skipping back and forth, they seemed to be playing more to each other than to the audience. And their harmonies didn't gel, either.

"Joseph" plays under the stars across from the City Dock Thursdays through Sundays until June 27.

The show, Hula Hoops, inflated bananas and all, is great fun. And if you've ever wondered what an ancient Ishmaelite would look like in black leather, here's your chance to find out.

Ticket information: 410-268-9212.

Pub Date: 5/28/98

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