By James Foritano
The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company has struck again! This time with a rousing production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice classic musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
The passions of greed, jealousy, despair, hatred, hypocrisy, overweening pride etc. are universal and in this production, all dance and song, illustrated with verve and ensemble precision. We’ve all, if only briefly, been the apple of someone’s eye; we’ve all, hopefully, been gifted at some time in our lives with a token of esteem that we’ve flaunted proudly and thereby enjoyed full-throated admiration, as well as duly virulent jealousy.
When Joseph’s doting dad, Jacob, a full-bearded patriarch, gifts his favorite son with a “technicolor dreamcoat,” he not only swells Joseph with pride but plants a seed of jealousy in Joseph’s brothers that grows violent.
Joseph’s brothers, hopping with sibling rivalry, nurtured, perhaps, by the climatic extremes of their desert homeland, Canaan, beat Joseph, throw him into the same chest out of which his doting dad drew the “dreamcoat” and sell him into slavery to a passing caravan of Isrealites.
You might wonder how such a harrowing tale can be labeled “family entertainment.” But then, unless you’ve seen and felt the esprit de corps with which F.U.D.G.E.’s ensemble dances and sings the guilty pleasures of plucking this peacock of a favorite son, you haven’t lived the glorious freedom of dis-inhibition.
Our children know the pleasures of lustily hating their siblings, friends and even, maybe especially, their parents for crossing their immature but imperious wills. For these children Leslie’s Cakes has baked “Joseph’s Coat” cookies so that during intermission they can devour the very symbol of their enemy’s triumph. And who of us amongst the moralizing ‘mature’ can resist a bite…or two?
F.U.D.G.E.’s spirited ensemble dancing not only suspends our inhibitions, but enlists us in the kinetic joy of thrusting an elbow and/or, for good measure, a pointed sandal into the very guts of our frustration.
And then, of course, we suffer. This is, after all, a tale from the Hebrew bible, replete not only with vengeance, but with just retribution. Such wailing, passing for song, such full-bodied grimaces of pain danced with such verve you’ve never enjoyed unless you’ve been an audience to F.U.D.G.E. in the deserts of Canaan.
And then, when Joseph reveals himself as Pharoah’s Right! Hand! Man! Well! The music swells, the joyful relief of the singing and dancing is palpable!
My only cavil here is with the blatant anachronism of embroidering poodles on the female dancers’ “Egyptian” skirts as they swoon to paroxysms of 1950’s pop; of Canaanites jerking to the joys of Jamaican Reggae. Come on!
And yet, if one closes a critical eye to the occasional historical lurch, just feels the swelling harmonies, expressive leaps, it all happens right in those “golden olden” times and right now — until August 4.
(The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” continues through August 4 at the Black Box Theatre at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, Mass. For tickets, visit http://www.fudgetheatre.com)