AHS musical is a psychedelic blast|
|Antigo High School’s spring musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” is a psychedelic blast from the ancient past.|
The show stars Daniel Bradley as Joseph and relates, through music and color, the Biblical tale of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, who is gifted with an amazing coat of many colors.
“I am a walking work of art,” Joseph sings.
That beautiful garment raises the ire of his 12 brothers, who sell him into slavery.
(Spoiler alert here for the very few who don’t know the tale.) But the young man flourishes in that ancient land, becomes second in command to the Pharaoh and eventually saves his now-penitent family.
Missing only some theater popcorn to qualify as movie-length, the show is told in a brisk 90 minutes in the Volm Theater, perhaps the region’s most attractive and comfortable venue.
That hour-and-a-half contains so much music and action that it’s difficult to determine where to start.
Bradley is a delight as Joseph, who grows from an arrogant and spoiled brat into a true leader. Bradley, a senior, is well-known to theater-goers over the years, most recently on the high school stage as Sid, the male lead in last year’s “The Pajama Game.” With his stage presence and strong voice, he was simply made for this role.
While Bradley is sturdy, dependable and excellent, Billy Schmidt as Pharaoh gives the performance that will generate the most buzz from the audience.
Schmidt’s Pharaoh doesn’t arrive until Act II, taking over the stage in a glorious haze of gold, with his pyramid as a backdrop. He’s obviously “The King.”
Doing the true work of advancing the story are the three narrators, Toni Krebs, Bethany Peloquin and Emma Hale. In most productions, narrators are an afterthought, coming on stage for a few moments at the start of an act or between scenes. But in “Joseph,” told totally through music with no dialogue, the narrators are an integral part of the action, singing and dancing along with the players as they explain the scenes and advance the story.
Narrators is simply the wrong term for these three, talented young women. They are key performers, starting from Krebs’ apperarance in the audience as “Joseph” opens. And they sing, not speak, their roles.
Supporting players, many in duo roles, are also excellent, with a special nod to Emily Bula as Mrs. Potiphar.
The real stars of the show, this year especially, are the musicians and the creative, lighting and technical crews—all those backstage people whose goal is to remain unobtrusive to the audience.
The pit band, directed by Jeff Dewey, may be the best assembled in years, with a repertoire ranging from rock and roll to honky tonk. The range and breadth of music in “Joseph” is stunning and the band is up to the task.
By design, “Joseph” features a fairly bare-bones set, although there is a camel and a pyramid. Instead it relies on brilliantly-colored costumes that could best be captured by Kodachrome along with innovative stage lighting. It is a winning combination.
According to Producer Eunice Rice, this year marks a change of focus for the musical from simple entertainment for a local crowd—although that remains a key element—to a complete theater experience that will prepare students for the next level.
“Antigo is already known as a feeder program for various universities,” Rice said. “Now we want to raise that bar. It’s something that scholarship committees at these schools look for.”
Those additions include a modern Playbill replacing the former, in-house programs. It’s similar to what audiences receive when they attend any big-city production, including Broadway shows. The program includes photographs and brief biographies of all the main players, a nice touch.
“The beauty of this story is that in the telling of it, an amazing amount of creativity can be displayed on stage by the actors,” Director Mike Blood said. “To put together a high-quality performance of this particular show requires a great many skilled people and it reminds me of Joseph’s amazing technicolor dreamcoat, separately the pieces are nice but when woven together, the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.”
In simple black and white, this is a great show.
Joseph, played by Daniel Bradley, twirls his coat of many colors.
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