And in the east the dawn was breaking, sings the Biblical Joseph. Its a poetic beginning for Farmingtons outdoor production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical Joseph and the Amazing Colored Dreamcoat. And theres nothing fake about it.
The prologue features a Narrator (the superb Traci Lyn Thomas) and the central character, Joseph (ably portrayed by Dallas Padoven). Quickly launching a story drawn from the Book of Genesis about the youngest son of Jacob, the Narrator summarizes a great deal of material and sets a light, breezy tone. When Joseph sings his dream of the future, he stands in the distance on a high natural rock outcropping. It may be one of the best entrances in musical history. In real time, the sun is setting, but the beauty of the desert conjures a believable sunrise.
Could any setting be better for this high-energy tale than the Lions Wilderness Amphitheater? The audience faces east. Behind you a setting sun illuminates a wooden stage that merges with a sloping sandy playing area.
This is flanked by secondary stages, which can be dressed. They become Father Jacobs tent, an Egyptian palace, and a dungeon.
Natural rock formations surround everything. The high ridge where Joseph sings his dream is also where black-robed women mysteriously appear and sing a lament for the enslaved boy and where a newly built pyramid catches the last light of the sun.
The musical Joseph started out in the late 60s as a pop cantata. In the 70s, it morphed into a full-length stage piece that has achieved enormous.
Today, Joseph feels like a period piece. Its full of campy, tongue-in-cheek humor and a variety of musical styles. The Sandstone production moves quickly, running at 88 minutes with one intermission.
Undergirding everything is distinct disco beat, a lively musical thread that may leave you humming Go, Go, Go Joseph on the way to your car. By the way, parking is ample.
While the Narrator and Joseph dominate the show, several soloists have their moments, too. Charles Brittons Pharaoh/Elvis gyrates across various stages with tremendous energy.
Trevor Hedgepeths Brother Levi sings a Western lament and leads the faux-sorrowing company into a riotous Bollywood hoedown replete with cowboy hats and boots. Brother Simon (Ben Mattson) swoons another lament, this time in the style of a French torch song that morphs into a mock-angry tango. You get the drift.
When Paul Stewart IIIs Brother Judah sings a saucy Reggae, Benjamin Calypso, he sets up the all important recognition scene followed by the brothers reconciliation. Can a happy finale be far behind?
In a creative touch that only Director Carson could imagine, she has invited Farmington politicos and business people to portray Jacob, a non singing part mainly needed to establish the conflict and the father-son resolution.
Each night during the run a different Farmington celebrity will inhabit the role, guided by the sure hands of the company, which oddly enough is half from Farmington and half from Durango.
Costumer Linann Easley has handsomely dressed her cast of 22 in Middle Eastern desert garb not to mention cowboy duds, French berets, diaphanous dresses for dream sequences, and the Cairo-cum-Vegas getups for Pharaoh and his underlings.
Choreographer Suzy DiSanto has brought her fascination for dance styles to life, sending up every step from snappy Charleston to jaded Fosse. Music Director Sheldon Pickering is in the pit on piano with strings attached. Hes ably accompanied by bassist Mike McCluhan and percussionist Hank Shirley.
Technically, Sandstone Productions has everything in order after years to perfect sound and lighting systems. Everyone has a mic, so you hear all of Tim Rices witty lyrics. And then you have a natural setting where the sun will set and the sky will fill with stars. Ticket prices are affordable. Thank you, Farmington.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at jreynolds@durango herald.com.