It’s not often that the words “spoiler alert” need to be written in the very opening sentence of a review. But the wildly imaginative conceit that drives Drury Lane Theatre’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” creates such an alternative universe to the original version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice show (which countless thousands of Chicagoans still remember as “the Donny Osmond musical”) that such a warning is essential.
‘JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT’
When: Through March 25
Where: Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace
Tickets: $47 – $62
Run time: 2 hours, with one intermission
There’s also this: If this is the first production of “Joseph” you are seeing, and you arrive unfamiliar with the story from the Book of Genesis about the patriarch Jacob and his great “dreamer” of a son, Joseph, you might not have much of a clue about the Biblical story being told.
But if you arrive with that knowledge, you will instantly sense just how ingenious and hilarious the concept brought to the musical by director Alan Souza, musical director Alan Bukowiecki and choreographer Grady McLeod Bowman really is. And while you might very well retitle the production “Joseph: The Remix,” you will leave the theater smiling.
And another thing: You will have made the acquaintance of Christina Bianco (as the all-important Narrator), a show-stopping actress-singer-vocal impressionist with mega-credits from New York and beyond who should, by all rights, be as famous as the divas she so brilliantly conjures, sometimes in a matter of seconds.
So here’s the word from the Sphinx: The iconic pyramid that instantly conjures Egypt in this musical is not in the Middle East anymore.
Instead, the action unfolds in a room at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, where Joseph (Evan Alexander Smith — a tall, reedy fellow with great pipes and a winningly gangly physicality) deposits his suitcase, climbs into bed and, yes, is besieged by a series of outrageous dreams. His Mafioso-like dad Jacob (Colte Julian) morphs into Pharaoh after Joseph’s 11 brothers, who are jealous that their father has bestowed “a coat of many colors” on his favorite son, sell him into slavery, and he is taken to Egypt, where his prophetic dreams give him influence.
The score (with sensational arrangements by Bukowiecki) is still a playful melange of pop styles (rock, country western, klezmer, calypso and more), but it now has shed the feeling of a Sunday school cantata for kids and become winningly adult.
In addition to the fabulous contingent of singing, dancing brothers who must be named (Paul Jordan-Jansen, recently seen as Sweeney Todd at Aurora’s Paramount Theatre, plus Anthony Sullivan Jr., Nick Cosgrove, Nathan Fister, James Monroe Stevko, Kevin Nietzel, Tony Carter, Alejandro Fonseca, Anthony Avino, Nathaniel Braga and E. Clayton Cornelious), there is a quartet of sexy, very leggy Vegas girls (Lexis Danca, Julia Klavans, Lindsay Loretta Prerost and Cara Salerno). There also are Jed Feder and Brad Giovanine — as a pair of doomed chefs — and a cardboard camel and goat with personalities of their own.
But it is Bianco, a tiny woman with boundless energy and, in addition to everything else, great comic chops, who easily steals the show as, with whiplash speed (especially in a grand finale), she uncannily conjures the voices, personalities and body language of Britney Spears, Cher, Bette Midler, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Shirley Bassey and many others. Astonishing.
And it all fits perfectly with Lloyd Webber’s score, with Ryan Park’s icon-perfect costumes and Claire Moores’ wigs. Bianco’s work alone would be worth the price of admission.
No, this is not your parents’ or grandparents’ “Joseph.” But I will say both “bravo” and “amen” to that.