Another classic tale bounds onto the Miller Outdoor Theatre stage, as the students from TUTS’ Humphreys School show their stuff in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s bouncy, colorful musical about a guy with a knack for interpreting dreams.
“It was written to be relatable and joyful, and Andrew Lloyd Webber succeeded in that,” says director Rachael Logue, who shepherds the cast through the nearly 50-year-old show.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was originally written as a commission for a school concert when Webber and Rice were 20 and 23, respectively. Between that first 20-minute performance in 1968 and the show’s Broadway premiere in 1982, Webber and Rice would become musical theater darlings, penning the music and lyrics for the megahits Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. In the half-century since its first notes were sung, Jospeh has become a beloved family show.
Based on the story of Jacob’s youngest son from the Book of Genesis, the story follows Joseph as he’s teased by his brothers for his crazy dreams. When Jacob gives Joseph a multi-colored coat, the brothers, in a jealous rage, sell him into slavery, inadvertently catapulting the young man into a series of events that will eventually lead to him becoming a most favored advisor to the powerful Pharaoh of Egypt.
The sung-through story is told by a narrator, who moves the upbeat show along. In the TUTS production, she’s played by Kelly Lomonte.
“She is proving to be very fun,” Lomonte says of her character. “She is this all-knowing being that is constantly saying, ‘I know something you don't.’”
The teenager has been on stage since she was 5. Her most recent show with TUTS was this season’s Memphis. (In fact, she had to do her audition for The Narrator during her dinner break during a performance of the musical.) She was also seen in Mary Poppins as Jane Banks and in the ensembles of A Christmas Story and Oliver. As she enters her senior year of high school, the home schooler is looking to audition for musical theater programs.
“These performers are so eager, so energetic, and so full of ideas,” says Logue about Lomonte and her castmates. “They’re all highly trained and talented actors who are constantly finding and offering their best for the show. I’ve encouraged them to bring themselves, and their choices to the table every day, and they have embraced that. I’m always smiling and laughing during rehearsals.”
Logue first saw Joseph when she was a girl, and while recent mountings of the show have included pyrotechnics and a lot of glitz, Logue is looking to do something less bombastic, but equally memorable.
"I came up with is a very three-dimensional, very fun, and relevant take on the show,” she says. “The idea for this show is that the whole production sprang out of one girl’s backpack, as if she’s acting out the story of Joseph with her toys, and the audience gets to see her imagination in real time. I wanted the set to be made of giant items one might find in the backpack of an imaginative kid. Our set designer, Torsten Louis, along with the head carpenter, Jerry Van Orden, and the TUTS production team, made magic.”
The result is a production that incorporates everything from a massive Etch-A-Sketch, huge books, and an adult tricycle. She doesn’t want to give too much away, but hinted audiences might even see a camel.
Working with a cast that ranges in age from 9 to 18, Logue said she needs to be flexible in terms of explaining things in ways they’ll understand. But she’s also excited to watch the students approach their craft.
“They are all so excited to dive into their characters and take risks—its feels like a more pure version of the art form,” she says.
Lomonte says she’s having a blast as she prepares The Narrator for opening night. One of her favorite Broadway performers is Kristin Chenoweth, who originated the role of Glinda in Wicked. She and her idol are the same height —4’11”— and Lomonte says that she believes Chenoweth proves that short girls can “break the character mold and not just play the best friend.”
Lomonte says she hopes the audience has fun at the show but to also remember the musical’s larger message.
“Joseph is all about following through with your dreams. It is important that no matter your age or circumstance people should believe in their dreams."
“Joseph has a special gift that sets him apart from his family,” she says. “He is ridiculed, ostracized, and eventually exiled by his own brothers because of it. But he stays true to himself and his gift, despite adversity. I think we see this message more than once with our show: Don’t be afraid to go for your dreams, no matter what.”
June 6–9. Free. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Dr. 713-558-2600. More info at tuts.com.