What were the particular challenges of reworking “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”? From the very start it was decided we would not be using a children’s choir. Often times the show is told to young children on stage, and that device becomes the window into the piece. It took me a little bit of time to envision the perspective of the show, but then I realized I wanted to tell it to the open-eyed and hopeful child that is still in each of us.
Once I realized that idea, I crafted the overture and we start by watching a young boy full of life and hope who gets bogged down by the responsibilities of his adult life. Then we push pause on that journey to gently tap him on the shoulder and remind him to reach back and remember when youth gave him the promise of everything.
As a choreographer, the show holds a big challenge as there is simply so much material. But the really exciting thing is that the material is so stylistically diverse. There’s a little bit of everything from clogging to hip-hop.
As the show’s director and choreographer, how do you balance the theatricality of dance with advancing the story? My No. 1 rule is that the dance always has to advance the story. That’s a big part of the reason my transition into directing has felt pretty smooth. For me, any method of storytelling is a valid one. Sometimes a huge balletic jump can express a character’s emotion, or sometimes something very subtle can tell an equally powerful story. Of course, the lyric is always the most important thing to consider. We must always make sure that the audience can take in the lyric, and we do whatever we can to color that lyric in ways that feel heightened. However, images are the first thing I see, long before I ever imagine a dance step. I see pictures and ideas — that’s the fun and easy part for me. The hard part is actually making up steps that serve those images.
How did this chance to direct and revise “Joseph” come about? I was speaking to the producers about staging a new concert of all Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music. That idea fell away, but they replaced it with “Joseph.” They reached out to me about it, and I jumped right in. “Joseph” was the very first show I ever choreographed back in high school. I had the time of my life doing it then. It was a very inspiring and important time in my youth.
Ironically, after “Joseph” was up and running (in North America), I was getting back to work on the concert of Andrew’s music, when he asked me to be a part of “Cats” — so I then jumped into that. Maybe one day we’ll finally have the chance to stage the concert!
Will you be coming to Tokyo with “Joseph”? I wish I could travel to Tokyo, but unfortunately I’ll be in the middle of opening “Cats” on Broadway. I’ve been to Tokyo twice and both times were amazing — when I was 19 and dancing for Tokyo Disneyland, and then in 1992 when I returned with the Broadway revival of “Guys and Dolls.” I love it there.
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