Embrace the summer heat with a rousing musical journey across the arid deserts of the Book of Genesis, as Theatre Orb in Tokyo presents a revival of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” the first publicly performed musical by those masters of the genre, Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice.
Fresh off a successful North American tour last year, “Joseph” — with rising American star JC McCann in the title role — takes the stage for 16 performances in English, with Japanese titles, from July 13–24 (except July 19).
Based on a storyline from the Bible, the show follows the glorious adventures of Joseph, the 12th and favorite son of Jacob (aka Israel), who is abandoned by his jealous brothers and taken into slavery after their father gives him a splendid coat of many colors.
Undeterred, Joseph overcomes libidinous pursuits and self-doubt as he rises to become the second-in-command in Egypt, setting up a dramatic, cleverly crafted reunion with his brothers and, eventually, his entire family.
One of the most frequently produced musicals of all time, this family favorite is a celebration of dreamers and an affirmation of the amazing power of belief.
Behind the scenes, its back story is also remarkable, since its humble origin in 1967 was as a “pop cantata” for Lloyd Webber’s younger brother’s London prep school. Then, after the 1970 chart success of Lloyd Webber’s and Rice’s other biblical collaboration, the pop-opera album “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the pair reworked “Joseph” into a full-length musical which opened in the West End in 1973 and on Broadway in 1982.
Using little spoken dialogue, “Joseph” is a famously sung-through work, with its action framed by the Narrator, whose role in the Tokyo shows is performed by American actress Laura Helm.
Meanwhile, Lloyd Webber’s brilliant score playfully serves up a wide range of musical tastes — from French chanson (“Those Canaan Days”) to a gyrating, rocking & rolling “Pharaoh (Song of the King),” funky calypso (“Benjamin Calypso”) and perennial pop favorites such as “Close Every Door” and “Any Dream Will Do” — offering any choreographer both a challenge and the chance to reach for dreams.
Enter the show’s director and choreographer, Andy Blankenbuehler, 46, whose amazing run of successes includes Tony awards for his choreography for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” (2007) and “Hamilton” (2015) — with the latter being just one of 11 awarded to the hit show this month.
Celebrated for his “physical storytelling,” in “Joseph,” Blankenbuehler incorporates dance styles ranging from hip-hop to swing, using movement as an integral part of the narrative in what is surely this classic musical’s freshest and most groovy revival.
So, never mind the heat — just head along instead to one of this summer’s coolest shows in town.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” runs July 13–24 (except July 19) at the Theatre Orb in Shibuya, Tokyo. Tickets are ¥6,000–¥9,800. For more details, visit www.theatre-orb.com or www.joseph2016.jp/english.html.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.