For its debut, 2nd Flight Productions is taking the Cramer Center in Manassas back to its religious roots, sort of.
Home to a Baptist church from 1896 to 1980, and later a Christian broadcasting studio, the refurbished site is bursting with the musical energy of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."
It's a rousing and well-directed production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's fanciful retelling of a Bible story, signaling an auspicious beginning for the area's newest theater company, which is based in Centreville.
The bubbly musical, with lyrics by Tim Rice, treads lightly on the biblical aspects of the story of Joseph, the young man of Canaan who is his father's favorite son. Joseph is given a multicolored coat, much to the dismay of his 11 sheepskin-wearing siblings, and he swaggers around telling everyone about his dreams, which he believes foretell the future. The annoyed and jealous brothers sell him into slavery in Egypt, where he rises from wretchedness to become a powerful leader, eventually surprising his brothers, who are unaware of his ascent.
The story is lighthearted and campy, with Joseph's adventures unfolding entirely in songs of wide-ranging musical styles and comic characterizations. Calypso and country are mixed with bubble-gum rock, pop and several tunes that are pure Broadway. And Elvis: Let's not forget the other king.
It's not sophisticated, and with all the fooling around it's doubtful that the kids in the audience will follow the story. But that's really not a problem because of the infectious sense of fun created by the 31 cast members as they make their way through almost 20 songs and scenes. Director Shannon Khatcheressian has whipped her performers into a tight company, including the nine youngsters who make up the junior ensemble.
The actors are totally engaged, sounding either robust or angelic, as required, and always projecting vitality, winning a warm and enthusiastic response from the audience.
With much of the cast constantly onstage, the relatively small performance area is crowded, limiting choreographer Rebekah McKendry's options considerably. Most of the movement is bouncy but elemental. An exception is McKendry's jazzy direction in "Joseph's Dreams," taking advantage of the undulating rhythms to let Joseph and his brothers strut. She gets laughs with the stereotypically silly, exaggerated cowboy movements from the men in the faux lament "One More Angel in Heaven."
As Joseph, bland baritone Josh Doyle projects less personality than most of the other cast members, but that's okay because much of the show's weight is carried by his co-star, the Narrator, played with appropriately outsized character and puckish attitude by soprano Carla Okouchi. She occasionally has difficulty maintaining a uniform register for her voice as she reaches for high notes, but she is quite engaging and commands the stage.
Nano Gowland earns big laughs with an exaggerated French persona, going for slapstick while leading the chorus in the tongue-in-cheek "Those Canaan Days." Mike Khatcheressian's Pharaoh channels the spirit of Elvis in a parody of "Don't Be Cruel" called "Song of the King." At the other end of the spectrum, the kids provide sublime moments with a hauntingly sung "Close Every Door," featuring a serenely beautiful candlelight procession.
Lenna Reid's small band swings tightly, but not as loudly as one might wish, probably the result of a directorial edict not to overpower the singers. David McKendry's scenic design is simple but effective, utilizing two unadorned performance levels -- the upper area framed by rotating panels that provide varying backdrops and flanking several "books" and the center one doubling as a door that reminds us the story originates from the Bible.
This is something of a family affair, with many cast members sharing family names, perhaps helping to explain the cohesive spirit and sense of fun.
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" continues through Aug. 28 at the Cramer Center, 9008 Center St., Manassas. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sunday. For information or reservations, call 703-365-8350 or visit www.2ndflightproductions.com.