The first collaboration of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, began its life in March 1968 in a London school as a 15-minute musical. Later expanded to 90 minutes, Joseph went through several New York and London transitions before opening in June 1991 at London's Palladium, where it was seen by more than 2 million people during its two-year run.
Done in songs that blend ballad, rock, calypso and country, Webber and Rice's Joseph retells the Old Testament tale of Jacob's favorite son Joseph and his 11 jealous brothers. Through song and choreography the audience follows young dreamer Joseph in his travels from Canaan to Egypt.
Chesapeake Music Hall's Joseph may fall somewhat short of the Annapolis dinner theater's usual standards. Although its lighthearted score invites a certain looseness, the show must come together into a coherent whole.
This does not always happen under the direction of Thomas M. Quimby, who might have allowed too much latitude. Sometimes bordering on chaotic, the musical numbers work best in the reprise, where dancers finally seem to get their act together.
Costume designer Sherry Kay Anderson may have added to the confusion by outfitting the 11 brothers in overalls, with chorus ladies in glitzy cocktail dresses - neither having much Old Testament relevance. Jacob, with his ludicrous black beard, looks as if he has wandered in from a production of Fiddler on the Roof.
Although Anderson's choreography is plainer and less demanding than usual, the execution is often unpolished, especially in numbers featuring the 11 brothers. Still, such klutziness might work for the brothers, who provide some of the show's best laughs. Surprisingly, when they become part of the Egyptian ensemble, they assume the stereotypical profiled positions with finesse.
Grace and style
Several female dancers add grace and style. Amber Wright is outstanding in chorus numbers and brings a sensuous grace to Potiphar's wife, a role she alternates with Heather Scheeler.
Heading the 23-member cast is Jeffrey Glenn Hitaffer as Joseph. Having directed Merely Players' recent acclaimed West Side Story, Hitaffer might have stretched beyond his limits by starring in this show. Although he displays strong athleticism and high energy in his dance numbers and uses his pleasant singing voice to full advantage, he occasionally comes perilously close to overacting.
Detached from the frenzy, Kristen Zwobot sings the vocally challenging role of Narrator, making the story understandable and proving up to the task.
Daniel McDonald is outstanding as Joseph's brother Reuben, delivering a rousing "One More Angel in Heaven."
The absolute pinnacle of the show comes in "Song of the King" - the Pharoah's number, when David Bosley-Reynolds takes the stage to bring genuine star power to his Elvis-like delivery.
Last Saturday's audience included a large number of children and young adults who enthusiastically showed their appreciation, indicating how suitable this show is as family entertainment.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues through July 10 at Chesapeake Music Hall. Call 800-406-0306 for tickets.