The McLean Community Players are putting a modern spin on a biblical story in staging Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which opens on July 15. The show, which was nominated for six Tony awards in 1982, is based on the story of Joseph’s coat of many colors and is being put on through a special arrangement with R&H Theatricals and the Really Useful Group Limited.
For directors Kevin and Pamela McCormack, a husband and wife team who have been directing together for more than 20 years, this will be their third show with the Players and Kevin’s fourth production of “Joseph.” Their daughter, Kathleen, choreographed the dancing for the show with her mother, so the whole family was involved in this child-friendly production.
The story begins with Joseph receiving a coat of many colors from his father, Jacob, which ignites jealousy among his 11 brothers. As revenge, they fake Joseph’s death and sell him as a slave to the Egyptians. Joseph spends the rest of the show trying to escape from the Pharaoh and return home to his father.
The McCormacks fashioned the show in a postmodern style.
“It is not as biblical as could be expected,” said Kevin, who also alluded to surprises in the production that are being kept secret until the opening. For McCormack, his production of the show has evolved from his original staging, which was one of the first shows he directed, in 1984.
The show has no dialogue, so the whole story must be told through song. To aid the audience in understanding the story of Joseph and his brothers, the tale is portrayed as a story being told by the narrator, a teacher in modern times played by Kate Merryman.
“I like to think of her as a cross between Mary Poppins and Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music.’ She’s a fun, funky teacher and a great storyteller,” Merryman said.
“It is hard to produce the show in a way that is current to the audience,” Kevin said. Merryman’s character helps bridge the gap between biblical times and modern day.
The play also stars Russell Silber as Joseph. While Joseph and the narrator are mainstays throughout the play, performing songs that vary little in style, Joseph’s brothers and the women’s ensemble are played by a revolving cast of characters who sing a broader variety of songs and styles, from country to rock. For the first time in a production of “Joseph” by the McCormacks, they have incorporated a 10-person children’s choir to serve as another link between the audience and the show.
“It has been a joy to work with people who share a passion for music,” said Merryman of the talented cast, who have bonded over the course of preparing for the production.
“Joseph” was selected because it is a popular show with audiences in the area. It appeals to families because it lacks objectionable material and is quick-moving and short, less than an hour and a half including intermission. “There is no downtime,” Kevin said. “The show is packed with high energy and excellent singing.”
The McCormacks kept this in mind when casting.
“We were looking for energetic singers, as well as actors and dancers,” Kevin said.
According to Brent Stone, who has been publicizing the show, they chose well.
“The best part has been seeing the strong interaction between the kids and adults and seeing the energy among the cast,” Stone said.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” will be performed on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on July 15, 16, 22, 23, 29 and 30. There will be a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m. on July 17, 24 and 31. Tickets are $17-19 with group rates available. For more information, or to reserve tickets, visit mcleanplayers.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 703-790-9223. All performances will be held at McLean’s Alden Theatre, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean.