Kelsey is a Chicago based producer, actor, writer, critic, and mixologist. An alum of Black Box Acting’s ACADEMY Program, Kelsey curates “The Newness,” a monthly salon of new work. They also work closely with Trans Voices Cabaret Chicago as well as Chicago Theatre Access Auditions. Follow them on Insta! @playsandpours, @kelseylooks
Evan Alexander Smith, Christina Bianco. Photo by Brett Beiner
By Kelsey McGrath
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Henceforth known as “JOSEPH”) drums up images of a young, handsome Donny Osmond, singing children, and quintessential Andrew Lloyd Webber. The narrator is friendly, telling the story as a sideline cheerleader. We follow Joe and his millions of brothers and their billion wives as he travels through every music genre ever. JOSEPH is a popular story, and a show that gets folks in seats. In a way, JOSEPH is junk food. It’s entertaining, consistent, and not necessarily filling.
Not Drury Lane’s JOSEPH. If the conventional JOSEPH is junk food, Drury Lane’s is the Instagrammable knockout.
Alan Souza’s re-conception takes place in a Luxor Las Vegas Hotel room. Christina Bianco quickly establishes herself as a narrator with sass and laughs, rather than the amicable one we’ve come to know. The world that’s created rides the line between dream and reality. Is Joe hallucinating from jet lag? or are these characters really in his hotel room? Joseph crawls into bed, yawning after a long flight. Enter Jacob as a member of the mafia, resembling the Godfather and his brothers are pirates or radically decorated gang members. And the Vegas raucousness takes off.
Our narrator quickly re-enters as Britney Spears — complete with snake and baby-like vocal fry. Then Cher, with hair and white outfit, and Bette Midler, and on and on. The pieces of this Vegas show fit together seamlessly; Bianco’s tone changes with the genres, and the results are hysterical and so so so entertaining.
There are no wives and there are no children. This is not a family affair. Many of the costumes are revealing enough to potentially offend suburban sensibilities. And while there are no overt sexual tones, the production is full of Vegas risqué. Drury Lane doesn’t exactly warn us of the content. Although it’s a provocative way to recontextualize JOSEPH in 2018, it feels like a glaring misjudgment of audience demographic. I couldn’t help but wonder who this reimagination is for.
Nonetheless, Souza focuses on the dreamlike qualities of this fable, taking its possibilities to the extreme. And I was here for it. Why not a JOSEPH in Vegas? It tells its own story and the need for the convention that surrounds it isn’t necessary to extract any of its messages.