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Monday, November 18, 2019
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Taking liberties, Lloyd Webber musical draws on biblical stories

Breslau Mennonite Church to stage five performances of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

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Given that they’re sporting bright and brilliant costumes, boogie-woogie dance moves, hip thrusts and go-go boots, it’s fair to say that this version of the biblical tale of Joseph takes quite a few liberties with the original source material. Your typical Sunday school instruction this is not, but Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat offers a chance to tell the traditional story in a new way, and have some fun while doing it.

The Breslau Mennonite Church will be putting on five performances of Joseph starting next week, with a full house expected at each one.

“We wanted to do something that had a little bit of a faith-based tie in,” explains Chris Steingart, artistic director for the play, who also plays the starring role of Joseph. “And we definitely wanted to do something that was accessible, not only to our audience who kind of are familiar with the songs and the show in general, but also something that would incorporate a wide range of ages.”

With a cast and crew of some 80 people, mostly from the Breslau congregation, Steingart explains that they were keen to showcase the talents of their members young and old alike, making Joseph the ideal show to put on.

“We’ve tried as much as it’s possible to incorporate the kids into the story. So they’re helping Joseph tell the story, they’re comforting Joseph when he’s in prison and kind of down and out. And they’re kind of his hope.”

The electric show, first penned by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice in 1965, weaves the ancient tale of Joseph with the modern sensibilities of musical theatre, with infectious pop rock melodies, elaborate dance numbers and quirky humour blended into the mix.

“It’s a retelling of the biblical story of Joseph,” says Steingart. “His father had 12 sons, and liked Joseph the most, so Joseph is given this beautiful Technicolor Dreamcoat. And obviously, jealousy ensues. The 11 brothers plot against Joseph and actually sell him off to be a slave.”

Sold into slavery and carted off to the land of Pharaoh (who in this story is channeling more of the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ than the King of the Nile), Joseph soon finds himself in an even worse situation when he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and thrown in jail. Meanwhile, his scheming brothers steadily come to realize the errors of their ways in sending Joseph away.

“And it’s told through a whole bunch of different genres of music: there’s some jazz, there’s some calypso, there’s some country western music, there’s some disco music. And a large part of the show is the role of the 11 brothers – they provide a little bit of the comic relief.”

The play touches on a lot of the familiar notes of the original, incorporating elements of forgiveness and redemption, hope and perseverance. But it’s all wrapped in the distinctly camp, yet undeniably charming and colourful trappings of musical theatre.

“I think it’s a familiar story to many,” says Steingart. “We have a lot of outside church groups who purchased tickets in large amounts because they’re bringing a group in. So it’s a way to experience the biblical story through song and dance and theatre, and I think it’s a fun experience. And it’s also, I should say, the music is really what sticks with people.”

This will be Steingart’s fourth production of Joseph since high school, and he says the show has always been immensely popular on each occasion. This time was no exception as the Breslau Mennonite Church will be putting on five performances of their show starting next week, with all five showings already having sold out weeks in advance.

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