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DILO Sept 07


13 October 2007

"Absolutely not.  That is never going to happen.  Ever."

Well, that left no wiggle room at all.  Based on rave reports I was getting from people who had seen the Davis Musical Theatre Company's Young People's Theatre production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and an invitation I had received from Marie Peterson, the prop coordinator for the show, to come and check it out, I thought I'd broach the subject of reviewing children's theatre in general. 

I remembered back when our kids were doing theatre.  In those days critics did come and they wrote glowing reports of productions, but they didn't review them.  Everything was always "just fine."  The kids who were serious about their acting and knew when they'd screwed up felt insulted at being patted on the head by the critics and not really taken seriously.

But I do understand why we don't review children's community theatre, no matter how good it is.  It can be summed up in two words:  stage. parents.  I suspect that most families involved in children's theatre are reasonable people and understand that Little Johnny isn't Mickey Rooney and Little Janey isn't Judy Garland.  But then there are those, usually the parents of less than extraordinary children, who are going to take offense if you say that Little Johnny wasn't quite as wonderful as Mom and Dad think he is.  Or if you forget to mention their little darling at all.

The paper is right not to open that can of worms and invite those kinds of headaches.   So I accept that it ain't gonna happen.  Ever.

Still, people had told me that this was an exceptional production and I was curious, so we went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (hereafter referred to as Joe's Coat, the label we saw on the light board for a production of the show we saw in London years ago).  And I decided to write a review anyway, even though it won't be printed in the newspaper.

Briefly, "they" were right.  This is an amazing production.  Credit goes to MJ Seminoff & Emily Jo Seminoff, who directed, choreographed, and designed the sets and costumes.  The sets reflected the shoestring budget, but when you have a cast of 47 talented kids on stage, you can forgive a bit of skimping in the set department. 

Katie Quiring, Tyler Warren and Erin Carpenter also helped with choreography and the choreography is one of the strengths of this production, as each scene gave such a delightful "tableau," each different from the one before.  Partly this was due to the size of the cast, but much was due not only to the design of the numbers, but the crispness of the performers. (I particularly liked Joseph's brother popping their heads in from the side of the stage.)

Costumes were inventive, using things that kids would wear anyway (matching jeans and tennis shoes) with a bit of "costume" on top and delightful headgear.  Joe's coat, designed by Jez Cicero was one of the best I've seen in prior community theatre productions I've reviewed.  Truly spectacular.

As for the cast, it was exemplary.  The role of the narrator was divided up among three singers, Caitlin Humphreys, Kennedy Wenning and Rebecca Rudy, who blended well and who each had good solo voices.

Chris Peterson, as Joseph, was simply outstanding.  His bio in the lobby says he has been performing since age 6 and has done 30 shows and his experience shows.  Not only is he completely at home on stage, but he has a terrific voice that never wavered once.

Joseph's brothers gave strong performances.  I don't know why, after so many years with the high school jazz choir, but I'm always surprised to find a chorus of young men, in their mid-teens, who are comfortable singing and dancing on stage, and who do it better than some adult choruses I've seen over the years.  Little Matthew Fyhrie, as Benjamin, was adorable.  In some ways he reminded me of puppy Mabel, stuck in with all the big guys, but mimicking their every move and doing it very well.

Soloists in various numbers, Nora Unkel in "One More Angel," Mark Lillya in "Caanan Days" and Meeka Craig in "Benjamin Calypso" did a great job.  When Craig reprised her song during the curtain call, her movements were so fluid she appeared to have no bones at all.

Staging for "One More Angel" was such fun, with Noel Parente playing the goat the brothers slaughter to convince their father of Joseph's death.

Andrew Lemons was somewhat sabotaged, as both father Jacob and the Pharaoh, by a faulty microphone which prevented his voice from being heard most of the time.  Still as the Elvis-Pharaoh he gyrated nicely and deserved the screams of the girls.

The Ishmaelites, Alex Totah, Danika Carlisle, Ella Gallawa, Guiliana Salerno, Jumi Nanakida, Eric Nishiyama, Maria Martinelli, Matt Lemons and Sally Li were adorable, all being the youngest members in the cast, all made up with long beards.

By any standards, adult or children's theatre, this was a terrific show.  The theatre was nearly full tonight and is almost sold out for the three remaining performances, so I guess word has got about and people are coming to see it, even without a review!


Chris Peterson as Joseph
(this is a different coat than the one used
in the production, which was more ornate)



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