Our second night of vacation in Denver bought us back to the Denver Performing Arts Complex having seen The Sound of Music the night before. This time around we are in the Space Theatre for a production of a show that I always enjoy seeing.
This musical was Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice’s (lyrics) first collaboration and has something for everyone. I am speaking of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
…the performances were all top notch.
This production was presented by Phamaly (pronounced family) Theatre Company. They present high quality plays and musicals like many other Denver area companies but something about them is different. All of the performers in their productions have some kind of disability. Some you can tell and many you cannot. Each performer lists their disability in their program bio. About five minutes into the production I forgot about this aspect and all I saw onstage was a whole lot of talent from the leads all the way through the smallest ensemble feature. Phamaly does not exploit their people. They actually do everything possible to make everyone look comfortable and this is one reason why I think I enjoyed the production so much.
I must say director Steve Wilson’s concept was one of the most unique approaches I’ve seen. He set the show in a mental ward and the characters are picked from the patients by Joseph (Daniel Traylor.) From there it’s a pretty straight forward telling of the story of Joseph and his jealous brothers.
The story is told by the narrator (Leonard E. Barrett Jr.). Joseph is the favorite son of Jacob (Don Gabenski) who gives Joseph a present of a technicolor coat. It was red and yellow and green and brown and you get the idea. This does not sit well with his brothers. The brothers devise a plan and tell Jacob that Joseph is dead. Meanwhile Joseph is sold to be a slave to Mr and Mrs. Potiphar (Trenton Schindele and Laurice Quinn.) Eventually Joseph meets Pharaoh (also played by Schindele) and after Pharaoh tells Joseph his dream he asks Joseph to tell what will be in the near future. Meanwhile the brothers are left penniless in some cheap French bar and come to Joseph for help. This is where we leave our merry band and now on to the performances.
I said that the performances were all top notch and it’s impossible for me to mention everyone. The ensemble in this show sang as well as any I’ve heard anywhere. Musical Director Donna Koplan Debreceni did a yeoman’s job with the choral work. With Debreceni conducting and on keyboard plus her three other players, Austin Hein (Bass), Scott Alan Smith (Guitars) and Larry Ziehi (Percussion) the performing company had plenty of groove backing them.
A few of the principal standouts included Joseph played by Daniel Traylor. With his good looks and strong voice his “Close Every Door” had just the right mix of pathos and power. How he did what he did with his hip issue at the end of act one I will never know but trust me it was amazing.
In a genius reverse casting move, Leonard E. Barrett Jr. with his strong and ringing voice guided us along as the narrator. This role is usually played by a female but Barrett proved it doesn’t have to be. If you command the stage it doesn’t matter which gender is in this role.
There was a young performer in the role of Benjamin that really made an impression on me. Leslie Wilburn is in the seventh grade and plays the meanest violin this side of the Rockies. They actually added a solo in “One More Angel in Heaven” to feature his talents. I don’t know what’s next for this kid but I think you are going to hear a lot from him in the future.
I very much enjoyed Trenton Schindele and Laurice Quinn as the Potiphars with Quinn making the most of her seduction scene with Traylor.
You will get to meet more of this amazing cast in a separate feature next week.
Debbie Stark’s choreography was full of energy. “Go, Go, Go Joseph” was a definite highlight.
Phamaly’s Artistic Director Steve Wilson staging was lots of fun and even paid homage to his composer.
All in all, Phamaly Theatre Company’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat featured an exceptional group of performers shown to their full ability by a company that embraces rather than exploits.
Running Time: One Hour and 45 minutes with one intermission.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat played its final performance on August 10th 2014 at the Space Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex which is located at 1345 Champa St, Denver, CO. For more information about Phamaly Theatre Company, click here.