"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is to the Old Testament what "Jesus Christ, Superstar" has been to the New, a spritely, mod cantata-in-costume by the same people, Tim Rice and Andrew Llyoyd Webber.
It is also, with its grand, contagious zest, the best musical the Hartke Theater has achieved, played, sung and staged. It's refreshing to get away from the musical oldies.
James D. Waring's staging also is "Joseph's first area production. Rice and Webber created it for London's Old Vic, whose Frank Dunlop directed it for a brief run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Philadelphia-in-the-Park. For some reason, perhaps its 90 minute brevity, it's not been done much, but I infinitely prefer it to the overblown "Superstar."
The story begins with Genesis Chapter 37, when Jacob gives Joseph his coat of many colors because the 17 year old is his favorite, "the son of his old age." Joseph's 11 half brothers don't take kindly to this nor to Joseph's dreams of inherent superiority. They throw Josephinto a pit, dip his coat in goat's blood and let Jacob think Joseph is dead.
Act 11 takes us to Egypt, where Joseph has been sold into slavery by his brothers and Pharaoh is a gyrating Elvis Presley type who has nightmares. Joe straightens out the dreams andthe corn shortage; all will end as it does in the last chapter Genesis.
Rice and Webber achieve a neat blend of the saucy and the respectable, with musical satire of the Old West, the Montmartre Apache and the Calypso beat. The costumes are a crazy blend of Adidas tennis shoes, old draperies and a feather fan. Costumer Kaye Roscoe Byars' fun is catching.
Major credit probably goes to musical director Kevin J. McCarthy, who keeps a dozen pieces of the stage band together and, more importantly, has trained these drame department actors to sing as though they know how. As in 'Superstar," there are mikes.
Mark Heckler, who looks like the All-American Dreamboat, contemporary style, sings very well and finds just the right superiority for Joseph, a delightful performance. Ayl Mack is fine as the singing narrator. Fred Greene and Dea Guidobono are most amusing as the Potiphar couple. Michael Anthony Garcia is great with the calypso beat, William H. Graham Jr., wickedly funny asPharaoh.
The run is through March 26, with no performance Good Friday night (March 24).