By Kimberly Rau
Theatre by the Sea’s third summer show is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and it’s one of the best things the company has put on in recent years. If you’ve been waiting to visit Matunuck this season, this is the show to see. Director Richard Sabellico has hit a home run with this family friendly, visually delightful re-telling of the Old Testament story of Joseph, favorite son, least-favorite brother, and dream-interpreting savior of B.C. Egypt.
In a nutshell, Jacob of Old Testament fame has 12 sons, his favorite being young Joseph, upon whom he bestows a coat of many colors. This, combined with Joseph’s dream-telling, takes the sibling rivalry up a notch or five, and Joseph finds himself sold into slavery in Egypt. Kind of a good thing, though, as the Pharoah has been having all kinds of scary dreams, and who better to interpret but Joseph? Having warded off national starvation from the foreshadowed famine, Joseph is sitting pretty when his brothers make the journey to beg for help for their family.
One of the cool things about “Joseph” is that it’s set up with a narrator telling the straight-from-Genesis tale. It means you can do a lot of things with the interpretation, and while many directors go for a Sunday School approach, often with small children on stage, Sabellico opts for a fun, 1960s traveling-show vibe, which really works to tell the story.
And speaking of the narrator, vocal powerhouse Marie Eife, who was in TBTS’s Beauty and the Beast last season, is the perfect choice to carry the show. Red-headed Eife has the hippie look the show calls for and, combined with her stellar acting and singing, absolutely makes the production what it is. She carries two acts’ worth of vocal gymnastics without breaking a sweat, from quiet intro to fast-paced megamix throughout the bows.
Luke Steinhauer is just what you want in a Joseph character as well – he’s a good actor but not over the top, vocally strong but not too showy (that’s what you want in your Pharoah, who is written to be larger than life as Elvis, and which actor Michael Williams does beautifully). Despite the show being named after the character, Joseph doesn’t have to carry things the way the narrator must, but when we do get to see Steinhauer showcased, he shines every time. And an extremely talented ensemble brings Joseph’s 11 brothers, the various Egyptian fangirls and boys, and other small parts to a whole new level of fantastic.
There’s a lot of great stuff happening on that small stage in this one, and it’s a great show for any age. Come see “Joseph” and prepare to be dazzled.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” runs through Aug. 12 at Theatre by the Sea, 364 Cards Pond Road, Wakefield, R.I. Tickets start at $52 and may be obtained by calling 401.782.8587 or online at theatrebythesea.com.