Joseph rocks his 'Dreamcoat' at Merriam Theater

Joseph... Dreamcoat 2nd National Tour
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," the rock musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, will be at the Merriam Theater for four performances this weekend.

You just can't beat the Old Testament for family drama. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, at the Merriam Theater, takes its plot from Genesis 37-50. It's about 12 brothers (it's always brothers, isn't it?), 11 of whom are envious of the youngest, Joseph, their father's favorite, who has a fancy coat of many colors; they sell him into slavery and tell their father he's dead.

While in prison in Egypt, he becomes famous for being able to interpret dreams, and when he warns Pharaoh that his mystifying dream foretells seven years of feast followed by seven years of famine, he saves the kingdom by preparing for the worst. Meanwhile, back in Israel, the brothers (and everybody else) are starving, and so they go to beg food from Egypt's stockpile. And whom should they find there, but . . .

And so it all works out, just as we knew it would (not because it's the Bible but because it's musical theater). In the course of much singing and dancing (what goofy choreography) and flashing lights, we've been taught lessons about envy, spite, generosity, and forgiveness. Well, maybe not taught, exactly: Don't go expecting a musical of actual ideas.

With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was brand new in 1968, about a zillion productions ago. This young and energetic company is on national tour and features Laura Helm as the narrator, a big role as this is a sung-through show. She guides us from the contemporary to the biblical, with surprising shifts along the way, from big Broadway sound to calypso to a hoedown. Pharaoh (Joe Ventricelli) sings his numbers as an Elvis impersonator ("It's good to be the king"), and Simeon (Peter Surace) leads the brothers in the second act's comic show-stopper, the faux French lament "Those Canaan Days." Patriarch Jacob (Marc Ciemiewicz) gets in a couple of chest bumps, and Potiphar's wife (Britnee Byers) bumps a variety of body parts.

But the star of the show is, of course, Joseph, and JC McCann delivers, with his smooth, big voice, which brings down the house with "Close Every Door."

The finale, "Joseph Megamix," seems pointlessly long, both asking for and then preventing applause for individual actors. But the crowd was well-pleased, and, hey, what else is a crowd-pleaser for?

Get tickets here.