Before Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote "Jesus Christ, Superstar," they were messing around in the Old Testament, and the result, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," is on the stage and in the aisles of the Olney Theater, rapidly spreading, through enthusiastic clapping-along, into the audience.
This is the Catholic University student production that played at Hartke. Theater this spring, and to say that it's of professional standard is not quite fair, because the consistently high quality and the number of delightful and versatile actors are 'above the professional minimum.
Popularizing Bible stories in the vernacular is an old folk tradition, and this one uses a variety of modern styles to spin out the story of Jospeh's ups and downs with brothers and Egyptians. Mark Heckler is an toothy, cheery, clean-cut Joseph in the mold of idol to the pubescent masses, ever ready with a smile and bright idea.
The brothers can do any of the styles that have their own radio stations, and few besides. When they prematurely report Joseph's death, they sing in Western about there now being "one more star up in the sky" (a six-pointed star, naturally, as the screens above the stage show). When they reminisce about "Those Canaan Days," it's a French chanson. When they bemoan hard times, it's calypso. The pharoah, played by Blaise Corrigan, is a rock king - what did you expect?
The narrator, Ayl Mack, slips into any style that comes along, but also radiates a powerful charm all his own.
James D. Warling, the director, had seen the show in Dublin - it was originally written as an end-of-term project for the Colet School Choir in London - and is responsible for bringing it here, as well as for the outstanding production.