By Mary Brassard
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville will delight and surprise you. You may think there is nothing new to see in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but you would be wrong. This production at the Hopebox is full of new imaginative turns and interpretations.
Joseph is a bright, family-friendly musical based on the story of Joseph from the Bible. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, many of the songs are written in very different styles from each other, doo-op, reggae, Western to name a few. It’s a popular show that is often staged in Utah.
The Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville offers a beautiful social mission as well as fun musicals. At the Hopebox, a recipient is selected for each production; those recipients are members of the community battling cancer. The funds raised are donated to this person. When you enter the theatre in Kaysville, you will notice their “wall of hope”, featuring past recipients, and information about the current individual. What a wonderful way to give– great theatre for a great cause . All of the actors and staff are volunteering their time and talents, and as an audience member, I felt wonderful being a part of it all.
There is a very intimate feeling in the Hopebox—the theatre is small and very charming. The seating is very comfortable with enough leg room.. The stage set up for Joseph is well done. A desert motif adorns the stage, and there are several levels and shapes that resemble pyramids, which makes for easy visuals throughout the night.
This production started off with a bang. The actors didn’t arrive due to an actor’s strike. Here we are at a live taping of Joseph, and only the filming crew is left to handle the show. Disaster! Ok, don’t panic, it’s all part of the show. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a very different and fun framing to this production of Joseph. I felt like I was seeing a musical I’d never seen before. It provides many hilarious moments throughout the night. Particularly, one of the security guards is stuck stepping in to play the part of a brother, and his face as he takes the stage made me laugh out loud. A stunned look, straight into the audience that really brought this whole concept full circle.
Director Alisha Hall filled the evening with new, funny twists like this. The humor really shines. The pacing is brisk, and you are never left waiting or bored. The comic timing is excellent. For example, a bucket of KFC chicken makes an appearance in Egypt, and it had us rolling in the aisles. Hall is also the choreographer. The dancing and staging is very enjoyable. It was easy to follow, and very unique. I also never felt like the choreography was above the skill level of the actors. I loved this, because it kept it smooth, and in sync rather than fancy moves that a community cast couldn’t keep up with.
This show has a lot of talent to boast about. The narrator, played by Mollee Steele, impressed me very much. The narrator is the lead singer in several songs throughout Joseph. Steele’s voice is clear, powerful, and beautiful. She sings with great animation, and really tells the story though her performance. Joseph, portrayed by Daylen Bills was excellent. He has a very soft, soothing stage presence. There is a sweet way he interpreted his part, which made me feel very empathetic toward him when things went poorly for his character. I really wanted him to win in the end. His rendition of “Close Every Door” has an ominous and desperate feel. I think it was the first time that I’ve really grasped the full meaning to those lyrics. He also shines in the final scenes. His arc comes full circle with a reunion in the end, and he commits so fully, he brings a lot of emotion to the scene.
Major standouts in this production are the brothers: Paul Nielson, Jason Steed, Cody Eisenbarth, Philip Etter, Justin Stanford, Brent Johnson, Jake Sims, Stefan Kurzius, Parker Thompson, Nate Spackman, and Nathan Eliason are a brilliant, ensemble. They complement each other so brilliantly. The relationship as brothers is very well developed, and they dance and sing together wonderfully. I especially loved young Eliason as Benjamin. He is so full of personality from his first appearance. He had a great bit throughout the show that is a hit. He bursts into tears each time Joseph’s name is mentioned. It is perfectly timed, and never feels over played. I also loved the relationship specifically between Benjamin and the brothers. Eliason plays him so young and likeable, and I felt a protective element from all of the brothers toward him. It really punctuates the final moments when they all come together in his defense.
Justin Stanford as Pharaoh was a favorite of mine. He has such a natural confidence, that it was so easy to believe that in Egypt, he really is an Elvis level celebrity since birth. His version of “Pharaoh’s Story” is so fun. I wanted to run on stage and join the fan club. His singing voice is thick and smooth. Each note is like a velvet bath for our ears. He is also hilarious while keeping his jokes subtle, to maintain a slick persona.
The children’s choir is wonderful. They are on pitch, and well-dressed. They add a poignant innocence to the whole atmosphere.
This production features a very large cast, but it is well-executed. The stage never feels too crowded, and everyone is appropriately featured. For such a large cast, I was impressed that there seemed to be no weak links. Everyone is committed and well-rehearsed. I was never distracted by half-done dance moves or blank, bored faces. Everyone on stage seems to be having fun, and that definitely made the audience feel at ease.
Music director Sally Paskins does an excellent job with the music. The harmonies are all well done. The voices are all used appropriately. It made for music that is enjoyable and easy to listen to. They make it seems easy, which is great. I never felt nervous that someone would crack a note or bottom out.
I applaud Anthony Porter and the Hopebox theatre for their excellent sound. Too often in community theatre, I am bothered by poor sound quality, and volumes that are too low or too loud. At Hopebox Theatre, volume is always on point. I could hear everything I was meant to hear. The voices are well-balanced with the music, and everything is clear.
The costumes by Shelly Pace are simple, and fitting of the show. The Egypt costumes are the most impressive, very sparkly and looked like what you would expect from a cartoon about Egypt. (I mean this as a compliment.) There is also a theme throughout the show featured in the costumes. The color teal, the color of Ovarian Cancer Awareness, which is the form of cancer afflicting the Hopebox theatre’s current beneficiary. This is a lovely tribute.
Over all, this is one of the most creative productions I have ever seen. So many new twists to a well-known show with a cast that is well-rehearsed and passionate about what they are involved in. A director who brilliantly weaves a large cast into a funny, yet touching story. Wonderful music, and to boot, all of this, to bring some hope and joy to the life of someone battling cancer. Go support Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville. You won’t be bored, you will hum the music for days, and you will be a part of something bigger, a community of people bringing hope through the arts.
Hopebox Theatre presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Hopebox Theatre, 1700 S. Frontage Rd., Kaysville, UT August 4-26 7:30 PM Matinee 2:00 PM Tickets: $15, $20 Contact: 801-451-5259 Facebook Page Facebook Event