Lawrence Toppman

Massive ‘Joseph’ blasts into Belk Theater

Ace Young and wife Diana GeGarmo in “Jacob & Sons,” during “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Ace Young and wife Diana GeGarmo in “Jacob & Sons,” during “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” DANIEL A. SWALEC

What’s the right blend of sweetness and spectacle, homily and hambonery, for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?”

Should it be a biblical story of forgiveness, teased slightly and enhanced by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s melodic and gently parodic songs? Or should it be a nonstop, over-the-top delivery of splendiferous production number after production number?

If the latter, your show has come to Belk Theater this week. The musical’s national tour lasts 100 minutes plus intermission – nearly twice as long as the original Broadway cast album from 1982 – because it’s packed with encores, reprises and extended dance numbers. (Director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler borrows from everywhere, including the barn-raising number from “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”)

The height of ecstasy or alienation, depending on your reaction, comes in the second-act song “Those Canaan Days.”

Once it was a gentle parody of a French cabaret tune, as Joseph’s brothers lament the fate of the sibling they sold into Egyptian slavery. (See Genesis, chapters 37 through 47.) Now it’s a massive number with a double encore, a homage to “Glee” and a stomping production number featuring cutlery and plates, delivered with extraordinary zest by a cast that never tires.

Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young, who play the narrator and Joseph, deliver the big, rocking performances that go with this idea.

Both have good diction and appealing voices at the lower end of the scale, though she becomes incoherent as the pitch gets higher. (That’s a problem if you don’t know the musical, because ... she’s narrating.) The director has instructed him to start his big numbers, “Close Any Door” and “Any Dream Will Do,” by half-speaking – which makes them less sincere, not more – and then rising to powerful climaxes.

The design of the show remains consistently strong, from the pre-curtain moment where we see Joseph having prophetic dreams in a cloud of smoke. (He envisioned passenger trains and 17th-century sailing vessels. Who knew?)

His vast, handsome cloak and the projections of it on the rear of the stage suggest stained-glass windows full of animals and symbols by Marc Chagall. (Charlotte native Lydia Hanchett helped make it.) Other projections on walls, clothing and the proscenium around the stage illuminate the sung text cleverly.

Those visions would have enhanced a smaller-scale show and competed less with the big numbers. Perhaps the producers felt they couldn’t charge $94.50 for a top ticket to a show less glitzy, and decided the ideal ratio is 10 percent Joseph to 90 percent Technicolor Dreamcoat. If you agree, Belk Theater beckons.

REVIEW

‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’

The national tour of the Broadway musical about Joseph and his unhappy brothers comes to Charlotte.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St.

TICKETS: $20-94.50.

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes.

DETAILS: 704-372-1000 or blumenthalarts.org.

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