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Arts & Entertainment, etc. / Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre / Opinion

Review: Beef & Boards' 'Joseph'

October 9, 2009

Indy has had no shortage of productions of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" over the past decade or so. But after an act of Beef & Boards' new production (on stage through Nov.22), I thought maybe I had passed my limit.

With a sizable cast crammed onto the small stage (it seemed as if the choreography had never met the set designer), the tongue-in-cheek Biblical tale played out fine musically, but never sparked.

A strong-voiced but bland narrator led us into a vision-less hodgepodge where visual jokes (yes, one of Jacob's wives is wearing a pizza on her head) thudded along with those already in the script. With not enough elbow room on stage most of the time, the brothers had little chance to pop as individuals. Rick Desloge's youthful underplaying of Joseph (until the over-the-top push at the end of his "Close Every Door" ballad) and some fun in-the-moment work from the underused John Vessels (as a brother and the butler) helped but wasn't enough to save the act.

But as Joseph himself learns, one shouldn't give up when all seems lost. One of the second act's big numbers belongs to the Pharaoh, who is usually played as a cartoon-like Elvis. Here, however, the inspired choice was made to rethink him in the James Brown mold. Fighting through the clutter, actor Sean Blake plays his big number for all its worth, helping push the entire production to a higher level.

If only the entire show had been rethought in the way that his part was, this could have been a "Joseph" fans' dream.

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