While the rest of the world watched the Super Bowl on TV, the theater critic took the opportunity to see Lamb’s Players Theatre’s new production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1968 musical, “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” or as actor Kürt Norby (the Biblical patriarch, Jacob) called it in a bit of theatrical foreplay, “Joseph & the Amazing Technical Difficulties.” The “difficulties” were remedied just as soon as flashlights got the show past purportedly corrupted computer light cues and into the smooth scheme that transports the audience to Canaan in the days of Jacob, who in this case runs an enterprise called “Jacob and Sons.” That is, if we are to believe the neon sign hanging between scenic designer Mike Buckley’s metal palm trees festooned with plastic fronds.
With an assist from the Narrator (marvelous singer/actor Joy Yandell), the musical’s book takes a wry look at the story of Biblical favorite son Joseph (David S. Humphrey), one of many sons (here represented by Edred Utomi, Jordan Miller and Brandon Sherman), wed to three wives (Catie Grady, Jessica Couto and Charlene Koepf).
When Jacob gives him a coat of many colors (brilliantly wrought by costume designer Jeanne Reith with Michelle Hunt), Joseph sings “I am a walking work of art,” becoming even further envied. His jealous brothers sell him to a passing caravan of Israelites, who have the cutest camel in captivity. From thence, Joseph is sold into slavery in the court of Potiphar (Norby), where his dream interpretations save Egypt from a seven-year drought. Many tunes and musical genres later, Joseph saves his brothers and is reunited with Jacob, who gives him a new coat.
This is musically and vocally as fine a production of the spritely “Joseph” as any seen in one’s long experience of the show, which ranges from junior theater to professional. Lamb’s artistic director Robert Smyth gathers a supremely gifted company of nine, six of them members of Actors Equity. The onstage band, comprising David Rumley, Andy Ingersoll, Rik Ogden and Oliver Shirley, are tops. Meanwhile, back to the audience, which was filled with parents who, instead of being glued to the TV, took their kids to the theater – a gift equal in value to a coat of many colors. The kids were joyous, and so was the theater critic.
Be Not Afraid: Tricky Dick in Beijing
San Diego audiences have a reputation as being terrified of “new music.” “New” would be anything written after the turn of the 20th century.
In mid-March, San Diego Opera (SDO) will present John Adams’ 1987 opera “Nixon in China,” and to better prepare audiences, SDO presented a free Community Conversation with Education and Community Engagement Director Nicholas Reveles at the Civic Theatre’s Sills Salon Feb. 2. Though I’m already a fan Adams’ first opera (he composed the wondrous “Gospel According to the Other Mary,” presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in two recent seasons), I was curious to see how many turned out for the Community Conversation to hear more about “the meaning and the music” of “Nixon in China.” It’s been reported in the press that tickets are not exactly flying out the door. To their credit, around 115 eager operagoers filled the Sills Salon to prepare themselves for the experience.
The first words out of Dr. Nic’s mouth were, “Don’t be afraid of ‘Nixon in China.’” Though the road has been tough, recent critical opinion deems the work a masterpiece. Dr. Nic discussed and demonstrated the musical styles Adams employs (he’s a marvelous raconteur and pianist) and stressed the fact that the opera, though based on historical events, is not a telling of what actually happened when Nixon, his wife Pat and Henry Kissinger went to China in 1972 and met Premier Chou En-lai, Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Mme. Mao, who in the opera is a brilliant coloratura soprano.
Soprano Patricia McAfee and baritone Michael Blinco sang arias and a duet from “Nixon in China.” Those who did not attend will find portions of the opera on YouTube. Announcement of a date for the UCSD-TV airing of the Community Conversation will be posted soon at sdopera.com The fearful should allay their fears by becoming acquainted with the opera prior to attendance. Of course you intend to attend. There is really nothing to fear.