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Review
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
by Christian Youth Theater

Any dream, and any dreamers, will love this outstanding, ambitious, and creative production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hilarious classic Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – the story of betrayal and forgiveness from the book of Genesis. Jason Russell, son of Christian Community Theater founder Paul Russell, has directed Joseph on numerous occasions, and his experience is evident, as this one is filled with countless hysterical innovations in sets and props, a huge variety of elaborate costumes (Deborah Ehman and Carrie Meth), dazzling lighting effects (Travis Russell), and great use of video near the opening (picturing other dreamers like Walt Disney, The Beatles, Louis Armstrong, and JFK) and near the ending (as Joseph’s father Jacob treks, and stumbles, on his way to Egypt to see his long-lost son).

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to also have assembled one of the most talented youth ensembles I’ve ever seen. It’s led by Christina Hambrick whose beautiful and wide-ranging voice seems to easily handle the challenging score, which demands everything from tenderly soft vocals to belting out the big numbers. She also has a knack for comedy, timing, and facial expressions for the complete package.

John Wanser does a fine job as the title character with an easygoing charm and excellent voice. He is backed up by an incredible cast that includes Matthew Lopez as the swivel-hipped king of Egypt who brings down the pyramid walls with his hilarious Song of the King. Joseph’s eleven brothers are a rip as they grow jealous of Joseph, get rid of Joseph, and then wish they had Joseph back. Ian Gilligan is a hoot leading the cast in the Benjamin Calypso, the female ensemble bedecked in colorful costumes with huge bananas as earrings (the word “banana” being repeated as a refrain in the song).

But there are so many big ensemble numbers that give this cast the opportunity to show off their remarkable singing and dancing and comedic skills. There’s One More Angel in Heaven when the brothers and their wives break the news to dear ol’ dad (Jacob played by Josh Elwell) about Joseph’s mortal combat with a ferocious goat, a country-western tune that has the cast decked out in their finest cow-colored chaps and hats. Go, Go, Go Joseph sends off the first act with unbelievable energy.

And then there’s the most impressive single scene in the entire production, Those Canaan Days, that has the brothers starving to death in Canaan – a scene featuring both brilliant comedy (much of it added through clever use of props and imaginative staging) and some of the most breathtaking choreography (Jason Russell) I’ve experienced as the brothers bend, swing, and toss Shannon Cajka (whom they nicknamed the “rubber band girl”) around in a manner that seems to defy the laws of physics, flows beautifully to the music, and leaves me stunned that Shannon’s limbs stayed in their sockets and that she was never sent flying across the stage.

This show became the first play to be put on in the new Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center on University Avenue – a fantastic new venue for local theatre. Of course, with a brand new theatre, there’s going to be brand new surprises. Somehow, with just a couple days to get ready with all the lighting and staging, Jason Russell and his talented team pulled it off with scarcely a glitch. It was a show that the audience didn’t want to end, and the actors gratefully didn’t let it end suddenly. Their “bows” included an electrifying revue of the music and dancing that lasted for several minutes, and could have gone on for several hours so far as I was concerned. Jason Russell and his cast and crew made my first theatre experience in the Kroc Center one that will never be forgotten, and one that I wish was still going on now.

Rob Hopper
San Diego Playbill
~ Cast ~

Narrator: Christina Hambrick
Joseph: John Wanser
Pharaoh: Matthew Lopez
Potiphar: Zack Wolfe
Potiphar's Wife: Loxie Gant
Jacob: Josh Elwell
Baker: Brian Crum
Butler: Luke Marinkovich
Canaan Girl: Shannon Cajka

~ Brothers ~
Zebulun: Kevin Bradel
Reuben: Justin Caster
Dan: Alex d'Avignon
Benjamin: Ian Gilligan
Naphtali: Robbie Hambrick
Simeon: Luke Jacobs
Gad: Eric Jennings
Asher: Jonathan Lewis
Levi: Matthew Lopez
Judah: Tim Manns
Issachar: Troy McKinney

~ Wives ~
Cassie Bowerman
Charlotte Cantelon
Angela d'Avignon
Courtney Evans
Alli Faucher
Amanda Gamble
Loxie Gant
Chelsea Lapp
Vittoria Picone
Emily Wanser
Aly Yarris

~ Adult Chorus ~
Sean Alvarez
Shannon Bradel
Shannon Cajka
Brian Crum
Amy Ehman
Josh Elwell
Alexandra Embleton
Kadie Everts
Jennifer Faulhaber
Breanna Foley
Aubrey Gilbert
Lori Gossett
Diana Hambrick
Courtney Luke
Luke Marinkovich
Kristina Martens
Rachel Mink
Courtney Olinger
Janet Paraiso
Katrina Pare
Christian Parks
Lorenzo Penny
Andrew Pomeroy
Anne Slagill
Kimberly Snew
Owen Spruill
Claire Villard
John Villard
Stephen Whittaker
Zack Wolfe

~ Kids Chorus ~
Bobby Albright
Danielle Bock
Payton Boeh
Kara Bradel
Laurie Bradel
Julia Clingan
Gabriella Cuellar
Mollie Esau
Meagan Flint
Shannon Foley
Corrin Fox
Melissa Fox
Patrick Gates
Bethany Good
Christine Hillmann
Kevin McDonald
Halli Meth
Taylor Morris
Jason Mull
Jeffery Mull
Jenee Musson
Kristen Musson
Ryan Priest
Steve Quinn

Director/Choreographer: Jason Russell
Music Director: Janie d'Avignon
Co-Director: Renee Rebold
Costumer: Deborah Ehman and Carrie Meth
Sound Design: Larry Esau
Lighting Director: Travis Russell
Intern Choreographer: Whitney Jacobs
Intern Director: Katie Bradel
Accompanist: Nancy Casey
Guitar: Brian Gossett
Bass: Kevin Gossett
Drums: Norm Nelson
Keyboard: Paul Dunn
Percussion: Michael Schlotter