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Keeton Theatre's 'Joseph' features vibrant array of talent; now thru April 12

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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Larry Keeton Theatre, Nashville

Rating:
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For their current production at The Larry Keeton Dinner Theatre, Jamie London and Ginger Newman are co-directing 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. An appropriate choice for one of Nashville theatre communities dynamic duos, considering 'Joseph' was technically the first fully staged collaboration of another slightly more famous theatre duo, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. I say technically because 'Joseph initially went through a few incarnations including a 1969 concept album and it wasn't until the success of Webber/Rice's 'Jesus Christ Superstar' that 'Joseph' was fully expanded into a full show.

London and Newman, who are not only co-directing, but also serving as choreographer and musical director respectively, have once again assembled a nice blend of seasoned performers, a few of my theatre crushes and even some relative newcomers to the Nashville theatre scene.

First there's Leslie E. Thompson as the Narrator. I first saw Thompson in the Keeton's 2013 production of 'Little Women'. As she did in that show, Leslie shines. Her vocal quality is pitch-perfect, strong and simply lovely. She's onstage during the majority of the show and perfectly weaves together the trial and tribulations of Jacob's favorite son.

When I attended opening night, Joseph was being played by Randy Craft with Tyler Evick in the supporting role of Gad, one of Joseph's brothers. These two young men, who interestingly have both played Joseph in previous productions, alternate these roles. When I spoke with London and Newman after opening night, they explained that the double cast the role because of scheduling. From what I've heard from those who've seen both in the role, it might have also been a case of both actors being so good, they just could choose one.

While I'm more familiar with Craft for his work as a musical director in numerous shows in Nashville, it was thrilling to see him perform the role of Joseph. His voice is rich, solid and the perfect compliment to his co-stars.

While many of the show's twenty-plus numbers are entertaining, Weber/Rice obviously knew 'Any Dream Will Do' is 'Joseph's crowning glory, as they wisely present it near the top of Act 1 and again at the end of Act II. Craft performs it beautifully.

The rest of the score isn't exactly memorable, but there are certainly punches of fun throughout. Among the highlights are a humorous French lark 'Those Canaan Days', featuring Nashville theatre veteran Howard Snyder hamming it up, or should I say reubening it up since he does, after all, play Joseph's brother Reuben.

For those Nashville fans, there's a country style 'One More Angel in Heaven' featuring the majority of the cast. Justin Boyd, as Judah takes us from the desert to the islands as the lead vocal during a tropical beat inspired 'Benjamin Calypso'.

Aside from 'Any Dream Will Do', another of the show's more memorable numbers is 'Song of the King' in which David Arnold takes center stage as the Pharaoh. I hadn't seen 'Joseph' since Donny Osmond starred in the early 90s, and I had forgotten about The Pharaoh being presented as a very Vegas Elvis. I've seen Arnold in several shows over the years and this has to be a pinnacle. Arnold's Pharaoh is a hip swaying, slave-saving sensation. Kudos also to Christopher Anderson for his contributions to the Pharoah set.

Among the other familiar faces in The Keeton's 'Joseph', Jane Schnelle is cast as Potiphar's Wife. She's got once scene in the show, and she makes the most of it. Her seduction of Joseph is played to the hilt. As for Potiphar, it's another case of double-casting with Phil Clairborne and Shank Kothare alternating the role. Then there's the Keeton's namesake, Larry Keeton as Jacob, Joseph's father. LIke Schnelle, Keeton makes the most of his limited time on stage.

Younger Keeton favorites Jack Williams and Stella London are among the actors playing Joseph's brothers with Williams playing Naphtali and London as Zebulon. It's always exciting to see these two young performers on stage. In previous reviews, I've mentioned that young Williams has the looks of a teen idol and the voice to match. I've also mentioned that if Stella's on stage, you're gonna see her. Neither disappoints this time around.

And yes, your read correctly, Stella is just one of the young ladies breaking the gender barrier by appearing as male roles in this production. I'm guessing it's more to do with no enough male auditioners, but let's pretend its a reversal of Shakespearian times when men played both genders. Faith Davenport, in her second Keeton production, appears as Asher. Making her Keeton debut is Maggie Adkins as Issachar.

Also making his Keeton debut is Steven Griffin as Dan. Alex Hopper is not only making his Keeton debut, but his Nashville theatrical premiere as Benjamin. On the other end of the spectrum, veteran actor Lane Easterly, who made his theatrical debut in a 1947 school play, is cast as Simeon, Joseph's eldest brother.

Rounding out the cast are Amand Dier, Megan Lebo, Josephine Secord and Kim Yearwood. These ladies are seen throughout the show in various roles from Joseph's sisters-in-law to townspeople and even The Pharoah's Egyptian-walking back-up dancers.

My only complaint of the entire show are the not-so-convincing period locks and beards. I for one wouldn't mind them appearing without the wigs and beards, but with the gender bending cast, that might be a stretch for a local production of a Bible-based musical. I'm just thankful that Newman and London opted to let their Joseph perform the role sans wigs, for I fear it would detract from the power of the role and his voice.

More positive aspects of the show come via the costumes and set. Tanis Westbrook's costumes, Joseph's coat of many colors in particular are gorgeous. Cat Arnold's set is playful and sets the tone for the entire show. Arnold not only created the set, she also appears as Levi in the show. The props and sheep used in the opening number, as well as the tack-board visuals used throughout the show whenever Joseph dreams or interprets others dreams, are cleverly reminiscent of Sunday School illustrations most of us recall from Vacation Bible School. I have to admit, the sheep really reminded me of a certain mattress company's woolen spokesperson, but that's only fitting...after all, any dream will do.

'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' continues it's run at The Larry Keeton Dinner Theatre with shows Thursday through Sunday now through April 12. Tickets for a delicious meal (served at 6pm Thursday-Saturday prior to the 7pm show) are $27/Adult or $18/Child. Show only tickets are $22/$13. The Keeton frequently offers a discounted Theatre Thursday ticket price. To purchase tickets, CLICK HERE.

Next month at The Keeton is Oklahoma! with dates from May 15-31. CLICK HERE for more information.

If you've enjoyed this review of The Larry Keeton Theatre's production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat', click the 'Subscribe' tab located near my byline to receive a free email alert whenever new Nashville Entertainment articles are posted. In the meantime, click any of the links below to subscribe to my other columns.

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