Updated:Franklin Regional High School's musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is another example of the top caliber performance that's come to be expected from Director Mark Wolfgang and the Franklin Regional student body. The school district has a lot of advantages, including an excellent theater size, first rate lighting and sound, an excellent orchestra that gets a much more meaty score to work with this year and very good, if somewhat anachronistic, costuming (I'm looking at you, Potiphar's Wife). All advantages, to be sure, but without a strong cast, meaningless.
The musical has 12 brothers, Jacob, Pharaoh, Potiphar, a butler and a baker. That, sir, is a lot of dudes. Some schools would be happy to have 17 men try out for the high school musical. This year, more than 40 tried out and were distilled into a very tight, eclectic group of talented seniors, including those who are typically not considered musical theater enthusiasts.
Cameron Louttit plays Joseph in his first role as a leading man. He manages to project exactly the kind of slacker, hippy persona that might just incite his comically jealous brothers to murder after Father of the Year Winner Jacob gives him, and only him, a highly coveted 1970s era coat. Joseph is sensitive to the appearance of paternal favoritism and quietly accepts the coat vowing to wear it only on certain occasions and to let the brothers borrow it for dates. Kidding! He bursts into one of the show's biggest numbers incorporating the entire ensemble in an impressively choreographed routine.
Although there's a great deal more pressure to a leading role, Louttit has found a very rewarding experience. "There's more freedom. It's been a neat experience to be able to develop my own character." To assist in the process, he turned to Director Mark Wolfgang, recordings, and the script. "It's a different experience to go through the script line by line. There's so much that you miss [just watching productions]."
Large musical numbers are where the show's choreography stands out. Many productions will have a core of highly talented individuals who carry the bulk of the intricate dancing leaving many in the ensemble uninspired and uninteresting to watch. Franklin Regional's major numbers incorporate the entire ensemble in organic purposeful movement.
Enraged over the great coat snub, the other 11 brothers promptly deliver a righteous beating and then sell Joseph into slavery, ironically ruining the precious coat in the process. They then return Jacob to deliver a politically spun cover-up with a literal song and dance. The brothers are deceitful, callous, backstabbing, and murderous. They are also some of the funniest characters in the show. Says senior Jessica Davis (Narrator) "The funniest part about this show is the brothers. They crack me up. I think they're hysterical. I'm always laughing out loud when I see them."
While this whole selling into slavery thing might seem a bit extreme, it turns out to be just the incentive the boy needs as he takes to the slavery like a duck to water. He quickly rises through the Potiphar family slave ranks thanks to a gift for delegation and middle management, but his career is seemingly cut short due to the attentions of Potiphar's wife, a classic Old Testament strumpet played by Michele Reizine. Joseph's owner, Potiphar (Doug Kormandt), perhaps having heard the King David/Bathsheba story, banishes him to jail to play out his slave contract which is, as you might expect, a long time.
Pharaoh apparently spends a lot of his time hiring and firing his own household staff, a classic micromanaging gaffe that pays off in a big way when his "am I going to execute him/am I not going to execute him" butler (Hanna West) and his "I am SO going to execute him" baker (Nicoletta Gaicchino) meet up with Joseph in the big house for a little emo dream talk. Little do they know that Joseph has been interpreting dreams since he was back in Canaan trolling his brothers' Facebook pages and refusing to get his hands dirty in the family business.
With the butler's strong endorsement, it's not long before Pharaoh has appointed Joseph CEO of Egypt and given him a huge signing bonus. The seeming ridiculousness of this decision is personified in Seth Lawrence's portrayal of the Egyptian God on Earth. The role of Pharaoh is difficult to play. There's basically one scene, one song, no warm up, and no cool down. You either walk out on stage and nail it, or you've blown it for the night. It's impossible to overplay the role and Lawrence does justice to the Elvis inspired ruler with suitable energy and style.
Of course, there's more to the story. Without Joseph's completely underrated management skills, the brothers and Jacob have completely fallen apart setting themselves up for a cruel punking Joseph is all too eager to dish out.
Throughout, the story is tied together by the role of the Narrator. Typically a single role but here divided into four parts played by Chelsea Watts, Jessica Davis, Laura Brennan, and Alyssa Smouse, these girls carry the production. The choice here to divide the part could have created some animosity but proved instead to be most inspired. According to Alyssa Smouse: "It was an honor to become one of the narrators. There are some really complicated four part harmonies and everyone has gotten them just right."