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  WINDY CITY TIMES

'Joseph' a flaming triumph
by Catey Sullivan, review and analysis
2018-01-27

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The opening night reminder for the Drury Lane's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat came with a caveat: "( T )his production of 'Joseph' includes adult content." Anyone passingly familiar with the squeaky-clean retelling of the Old Testament tale probably did a double-take. What hath director Alan Souza wrought? How could one of musical theater's most wholesome shows possibly contain "adult content"?

I'll tell you what Souza hath wrought: Something fabulous. His "Joseph" sounds good, looks great, is immensely entertaining and is also—arguably I suppose—the gayest show in all the land. There are performances by Cher on a trapeze, Liza in a pink Cadillac, Britney with a boa constrictor draped over her shiny green bikini, Elton on a bedazzled piano and Bette, suggestively flopping her mermaid tail on a bed of sea-shell pink. There is also Shania, Dolly, Celine, Barbra, Bernadette, Patti, Liberace and Siegfried and Roy.

Joseph spends most of the first act in his underwear and most of the second act in a silver skort. Ryan Park's costumes make the male ensemble members look like they all just placed in the International Mr. Leather Pageant and the women like they're moonlighting from dominatrix duties in an upscale dungeon. Were it any more intentionally flaming, you'd have to call in firefighters.

Word is there have been complaints at the box office. This is not surprising. The Drury Lane is nestled in ultra-conservative DuPage County. Reportedly, some of the residents of this staunch Trumplandia have demanded refunds. To which I say: Get the fuck over yourself. As Liza says in the second act: "Mama would have loved this show." If it's good enough for Judy, it ought to be good enough for you. If the show makes you feel the need to demand a refund I'd advise you to look into medical marijuana.

Souza's re-imagining is set at the Luxor Hotel, in Las Vegas. Joseph unpacks, checks out the room, takes a long leak, gives a subtle chuckle at the Bible stashed in the nightstand and crawls into bed. The next thing he knows, a phalanx of buff, singing, dancing chorus boys are somersaulting out of the mini-bar while a woman with a pyramid on her head flips through the aforementioned Bible. Joseph calls security.

So begins Joseph's epic Vegas vacation. Is he hallucinating? Is he drunk? Is he dreaming? Who gives a shit. By the time Britney shows up, Joseph is having a ball and you will be, too.

Usually, Joseph is anchored by a primly charming narrator who trills sweetly through the key plot points: Doting father Jacob gives Joseph a colored coat. Jacob's brothers get fratricidal and jealous. They sell Joseph into slavery. Joseph gains favor with Pharaoh. Joseph reunites with his repentant siblings. ( Sorry/not sorry if that's a spoiler. The story is over 2,000 years old. )

Souza has cast celebrity impersonation maestro Christina Bianco as the narrator. In shape-shifting Britney to Cher to Dolly, Bianco takes the show's exposition to what Tyra would call "next level fierce." Here's how good Bianco is: I didn't realize the same person was playing Bette/Celine/Shania et al until the last 40 minutes of the two-hour ( including intermission ) show. Which reminds me: Do not leave before the curtain call. Bianco gives a reprise that'll have you smacking your head in wonderment. At one point, she morphs into a dozen different celebrities while singling only the words "la la la." It's a true tour de force.

As Joseph, Evan Alexander Smith is terrific. He's got a belt ( "Close Every Door" ) as mighty as Joshua's trumpet at Jericho and a marvelous sense of comic timing. Under music director Alan Bukowiecki, the show sounds terrific, particularly in the all-male ensemble numbers. "Those Canaan Days" will have you absolutely wallowing, Mooney-eyed, in the luxuriance of its harmonies.

Scenic design Kevin Depinet's set starts out looking like a replica of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of Moon album, and then opens up into a picture-perfect rendition of mid-rate hotel room. Lighting designer Lee Fiskness and projection designer Kevan Loney make the show glitter like the Strip at midnight. With Grady McLeod Bowman's inventive choreography, the whole shebang amounts to a Bible story that's as entertaining as, well, a Vegas headliner.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues through March 25 at the Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Tickets are $47-$62. For more information, call ( 630 ) 530-0111 or go to drurylanetheatre.com .


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