17th century poet Francis Quarles wrote, “Judge not the play before the play is done.” Great advice for anyone seeing their umpteenth version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, especially if you are seeing Just Off Broadway’s latest offering. I don’t care how many times you’ve seen Joseph…, Director Tammy Oppel will show you that you don’t know Joe! Oppel brings us a delightfully staged version of the show unlike any that I have seen. Refusing to get caught in the traditional Joseph rut, Oppel opts for a static set of a Sunday School classroom and all her props are things that would normally be found in the room. It is a refreshingly brilliant idea that works very well. The whole concept brought Joseph.. into a wholesome, feel good little package.
Set Designer Theresa Bonvegna clearly embraced Oppel’s vision and her set looked like she moved one of the classrooms from the church onto the stage. Bonvegna does not spare any detail, from the wall clock to the fruit snacks, this looks and feels like any Sunday School classroom across America. While not the most elaborate, it is definitely one of the best sets I’ve seen all year. Bonvegna understands the space and the concept, blending the two into a practical, bright, and charming place to perform.
Patty DeLisle once again shows why she is one of the most sought-after Musical Directors in town. Her soloist are strong and on point, and her ensemble delivers harmonies that will give you goose bumps. Choreographer Katie Gerstmyer keeps things moving with steps, spins and leaps. As with all of Gerstmyer’s productions, if you are in the show, then you are dancing. Way too often in community theatre choreographers will sacrifice community for production be leaving people out of certain numbers. Gerstmyer instead opts for inclusion and plays to the strengths of her cast. Her passion for dance is contagious and by the end of the run everyone feels like a dancer. Gerstmyer continues to show a willingness to teach and she consistently elevates the talent of any show she is a part of. She is a blessing to community theatre.
JOB has certainly stepped up their lighting game for this production thanks to Andrew Vida. Vida floods not only the stage but the space around it with moving colors and spinning designs that add to the production. Having seen several shows at JOB this is one of the best as far as lighting. I hope we see more of what Vida can bring in future shows.
Before we dive into the amazing talent that toed these board, let’s get the sound issues out of the way. I understand that as community theatre people we can only use what is on hand. We all have different budgets and equipment and sometimes the tech trolls get into the system and we get dropped mics or feedback. There were too many times that you couldn’t hear cast members who were mic’d, this too includes the Narrator. She would sing and it was lovely and then the ensemble, most of whom were not mic’d, would join in and she was lost. One thing that may have helped would be to bring the cast forward and put the orchestra behind the set walls. This would bring performers closer to the audience while utilizing the set design to dampen the instruments. Also adding an extra speaker or two would help. For me this was a five-star production tripped up by sound issues. Not being able to hear the Narrator and sometimes Joseph made it difficult for people who didn’t know the show to follow what was happening.
The Ensemble is a tight group that not only performed well but you could tell that they really enjoyed performing together. Some people who need to be recognized are Kate Forton (Zebulan), B. Ever Hanna (Gad), Patrick Jay Golden (Levi/Pharaoh), Jason Crawford Samios-Uy (Judah), and Samantha Jednorski (Mrs. Potiphar). Forton, Hanna, Crawford, and Golden were a sheer joy to watch. Each excelled vocally as well as giving 100% to their roles. Watch how they are in constant connection with what is happening on stage and their reactions. Crawford’s vocals in “Benjamin Calypso” were beautiful. I have seen Jednorski perform her magic in theatres up north, and I am so glad that she made her way south. It’s as if she were locked away behind a sign that read, “In Case Baltimore Needs A Dancer: Break Glass.” She put on a performance that kept me on the edge of my seat. Not only is she a talented dancer, her acting skills are top notch. Check her out during “Joseph’s Coat” especially when her color isn’t called.
Elton Knupp (Narrator) and Josh Schoff (Joseph) are a powerful vocal tandem. Knupp has lovely docile tones and a belt that can knock paint off the wall. Her range is phenomenal, and this role give her a chance to put her goods on display. Her performance in this show is not to be missed! Schoff is the perfect complement to Knupp. His constant smile alone is uplifting. Schoff plays Joseph in a warm welcoming way. I’ve seen people who play the part as though, “Hi I’m Joseph and this is my show.” Schoff turns that around and gives a performance that says, “Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this” and it plays very well. He has both the vocal and acting chops needed for the role, but he does not try to dominate the stage. Schoff blends well with the rest of the cast. His rendition of “Close Every Door” is chilling and emotional. I wasn’t crying, you were crying.
So, go, go, go down to JOB for this incredible showing of Joseph… Don’t let Pharaoh find out you weren’t there.
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes with one intermission
Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays through November 3, 2019 with Just Off Broadway at Epiphany Lutheran— 4301 Raspe Avenue in Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available at the door or in advance online.