Pity the community theater company staging a musical production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” so shortly after the bigbudget Broadway tour rumbled through town. It simply can’t compare.
Such is the case with the Hale Centre Theatre, that cozy Gilbert playhouse, putting on “Joseph” a month after “American Idol” finalist Amy Adams and Broadway’s Patrick Cassidy (brother of David) headlined a behemoth tour stop in June at Gammage Auditorium.
No amount of money thrown at sets and costumes — and the Hale has thrown relatively beaucoup bucks into its summer show’s accouterments — could measure up to the tour’s splashy neon glitz.
It’s fitting, then, that the Hale’s show, directed by Hale owner David Dietlein, is a “Dreamcoat” of a different color.
A sparse, in-the-round setting spills into the audience, stripping away much of the musical’s excesses to reveal just the essentials: A catchy score, a few funny gags and room for pretty powerful performances by its cast.
True, “Joseph” is made whole-cloth of excess. The Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber pop-opera confection leaves no musical genre in its wake, borrowing from rock, R&B, country, calypso, tango — all to tell the biblical parable of Joseph, a favored son whose Carl Jungworthy powers of dream interpretation earn him the ear of the Egyptian Pharaoh.
(That the Pharaoh is played as a sort of Pentateuchal Elvis Presley is merely the cherry atop the whole excessive sundae.)
At the Hale, young Mesa actor Tyler Maxson tackles the title role with a big, warm voice and plenty of charisma. Shirtless and sporting blond curls, the actor can’t help but resemble Christopher Atkins in “The Blue Lagoon.”
But it’s Maxson’s wife, Linsey Maxson, who steals the show. As the Narrator, she haunts the edges of the story and belts out the lion’s share of the show’s catchiest numbers (“Jacob & Sons,” “Pharaoh Story”). Linsey packs some powerful pipes, giving even “Idol” Adams a run for her money.
The Hale’s ensemble, which looks at least partially cribbed from the Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre’s cast of regulars (Jessica Berman, Nick Lorenzini, Dominic Kidwell), is similarly up to the challenge, and the company comes decked out in wonderful outfits from costumers Sandy Bishop and Corrin Dietlein, David’s wife.
The stripped-down treatment here doesn’t fix “Joseph’s” innate flaws — the oftlame lyrics, the unnecessary reprisal medley — but, then again, neither did the big Broadway tour. What the Hale makes a case for, instead, is something entirely interesting, if contradictory: Meet the intimate extravaganza.
‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, closing Aug. 19 Where: Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Ave., Gilbert Cost: $20-$22 Information: (480) 497-1181 or www.haletheatrearizona.com Grade: B+