Dreams figure quite prominently in the story of Joseph that’s recorded in the Book of Genesis, so I couldn’t help but think about different dreams as I watched a rehearsal of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” this week.
For those unfamiliar with the details, Joseph was able to interpret dreams, and the way he deciphered a dream about his own destiny turned his already jealous brothers into enemies. They sold Joseph into slavery, but dream interpretation helped reverse Joseph’s fortunes and the prediction about his brothers’ bowing down before him came true.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” opens an eight-show run tonight at Brownwood’s Lyric Theatre, and this Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice classic features a storyline told through song by a cast so large it’s a tight fit to put them all on stage.
I couldn’t help but recall more than a decade ago when productions like “Joseph” in a venue like the Lyric were only a dream in the minds of a handful of people who saw the need for a home in Brownwood for community theater.
For anyone who toured the gutted shell of the 1914-vintage Lyric Theatre before restoration began, the elegance of what they see there now boggles the mind.
And for audience members who find their way into the theater this month to enjoy “Joseph,” their minds will be boggled again by what they witness.
It was one of those “pinch me” experiences people have occasionally. Yes, I kept reminding myself, this really is live theater, and this really is Brownwood, Texas.
The Lyric had already been presenting on other local stages top-notch musicals each summer for more than a decade before this theater celebrated its grand re-opening in December 2014, producing “Anything Goes.” The high quality of the performances is nothing new. That has become a trademark for the Lyric. But somehow, “Joseph” generates a unique sensation.
Maybe it’s because everything is musical. Maybe it’s because a chorus of youngsters adds so much charm. Maybe it’s because the genius of Lloyd Webber and Rice, who gave the world other great achievements like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” comes shining through.
The plot of Joseph’s story is no surprise to anyone familiar with the Old Testament, but the professional caliber of any Lyric presentation will amaze theater newcomers. Songs in “Joseph” are as varied as the colors of the central character’s cloak — boasting a mixture of calypso, ballads, country, and even a crowd-pleasing Elvis takeoff. Under the direction of Dr. Nancy Jo Humfeld, the Lyric vocalists deliver every selection with impressive skill and enthusiasm.
“Joseph” showcases a series of compelling songs, performed one after the other, and compelling is an appropriate description for each Lloyd Webber-Rice composition. What’s curious is how few of us can name off the top of our heads a single title from the show, unlike “Superstar” or “Phantom.” So, I did some research.
“Joseph” was the first Lloyd Webber-Rice musical to be performed publicly, as a 20-minute “pop-cantata” school production in 1968. But the success of “Superstar” in 1970 prompted additions to this show until it reached final form in 1974.
One tangential observation: An early edition of the game “Trivial Pursuit” included this question, “Who wore the coat of many colors?” Of course, any student of the Bible knows it was Joseph.
Instead, the correct answer the game provided was… Dolly Parton.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at email@example.com.