'Dreamcoat' shines in La Habra

REVIEW: Early Andrew Lloyd Webber
musical makes for exciting north county staging.

By Eric Marchese

Special to the Register

    Very few theater aficionados would argue that Andrew Lloyd Webber has been at the top of his form for the past decade.  But there are a few of us who still prefer his earliest efforts- "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita," for example - to his more recent successes.
    Add "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," Lloyd Webber's 1968 collaboration with Tim Rice, to that relatively short list.
    A Bubbly, visually dazzling and aurally impressive staging at La Habra's Depot Playhouse is the perfect justification for anyone arguing that Lloyd Webber's claim to greatness lies in his first handful of stage musicals.
    Lloyd Webber and Rice use the Bible story of Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, to spin a lively, colorful cloak of rock music.  And what this production cloaks is the idealistic, live-and-let-live, flower child sensibility of the 60's. 
    In La Habra, that spirit is epitomized in the knockout Act 1 curtain, " Go, Go, Go, Joseph."  This exciting number, as staged by director Diane Christensen, choreographer Alysa Lobo and musical director Carlene Woerner, depends as much upon the psychedelia of its costumes and props (by Kathy Busby, Leslie Hanstad, Mary Raffaelli, Gena Strelow, Tami Hough and Geri Pitt) as it does the manic energy of La Habra's gargantuan cast of 54. 
    That number is preceded by "Close Every Door," which, in the hands (and voice) of Kevin Noonchester as Joseph, is among the most movingly melancholy solos of self-pity ever penned by Lloyd Webber and Rice.  Noonchester is in fine form throughout, while Alysa Lobo is powerful vocally, genially beaming in the role of Narrator. 
    This commendable Depot Theater staging makes the most of the musical diversity of "Joseph," which uses a basic soft rock format to showcase musical styles ranging from country-Western and calypso to cabaret and the Elvis brand of early rock 'n' roll.

Orange County Register April 6, 1996