by Chris Lang
In 1968, Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lyricist Tim Rice were commissioned to write a short musical for the Colet Court School (a preparatory school for boys) in London. The short 15-minute musical cantata was based on the Hebrew bible story of Joseph and his “coat of many colors.” After its performance at Colet Court School, additional songs were added and the show started to make its way through the festival circuit in England, with small productions taking place in London. The show finally made its way to Broadway in January of 1982, opening at the Royale Theater and running for 749 performances. Since then, the show has been performed by over 20,000 amateur, school and community production groups and remains popular to this day. In 1999, a video was produced with Donny Osmond as the title character.
The story of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat comes from the biblical story of Joseph and his eleven brothers. Joseph is given an amazing “coat of many colors” from his father, Jacob. Joseph also has dreams where he sees himself destined for greatness. His brothers, filled with jealousy, plot to kill him but decide at the last minute to sell him into slavery instead, telling their father that Joseph was killed. Joseph ends up in the house of rich Egyptian Potiphar, but Potiphar’s wife begins making advances and Joseph is promptly thrown into prison. Joseph’s knack for deciphering dreams catches the attention of the Pharaoh and Joseph becomes Pharaoh’s “number two.” Poor and destitute, Joseph’s brothers travel to Egypt for help, still unaware their brother is no longer a slave. Joseph decides to set an example of one of the brothers and frames him for stealing a precious cup. The other brothers plead for mercy, and Joseph decides to forgive them. The story concludes with Jacob coming to Egypt and presenting Joseph with his beloved multicolored coat.
While some liberties are taken in the production (with the Pharaoh typically portrayed as Elvis), much of the story remains intact. A variety of musical styles are used in the production — ranging from a country hoedown, rock and roll to calypso — making for an enjoyable time for audiences of all ages. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is currently playing at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater until July 18th, with performances Wednesday thru Sunday. Tickets and more information can be found at the Good Company Players website.