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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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Wednesday, July 17

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

We went to the Arizona Broadway Theatre last night to see what turned out to be an amazing show. The word "spectacular" comes to mind, but even that doesn't do this show justice. The set design, the lighting, the costumes, the singing, the choreography--all were better than ever. Each production seems to outdo the previous one, and this one certainly did that. I think I'll let a real critic have his say. David Appleford, Phoenix film and theatre critic, raved about ABT and this show:

There’s a rumor that from time to time Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is prone to secretly turning up at a production of one of his shows, unannounced, just to see how it was being interpreted and whether standards were being met. I’m not sure how true this is, but if this is the case, let me extend an invitation for the celebrated composer to drop by Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria to see what they’ve done with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He’ll not only be impressed, he may even be overwhelmed.

Joseph began life as a short production for a British high-school in 1968, but when Jesus Christ Superstar became a smash, Joseph was revisited, expanded, and has now become almost as popular as Superstar itself. And with good reason. It’s a bright, infectiously tuneful and at times, very funny interpretation of the famous biblical tale that virtually bursts with color and life, and that’s exactly how this outstanding production at ABT is being presented.

You have to hand it to ABT. It knows its audience and it has a clear vision of what its audience wants, but there’s something more. It also knows what its audience has now come to expect, and that’s a high standard of production way beyond anything considered the norm at a dinner theatre, but allow me to qualify that in case anyone thinks I’m down on dinner theatre. Quite the opposite. Yes, ABT is a dinner theatre and quite possibly one of the best in the country, but in the end, no matter how good the food and service is – which is first class, by the way – in the end, the show is the thing, and it’s here where the theatre truly delivers.

Watching Joseph come to life is like watching the sum total of everything the theatre has learned about production and presentation since it opened, and it has poured every talented trick into this one show. When going to the movies is becoming more expensive and less of an option due to content and style for many adults, theatre continues to deliver, and with this production of Joseph, ABT has now proved that beyond a doubt it is quite simply among the most accomplished of its kind anywhere in the United States. Having been to several and even performed in some, I feel quite confident in making such an exclamatory declaration without fear of contradiction.

Director Joseph Martinez keeps his production close to what is now considered the accepted standard book of Joseph, after all the various revisions, but he incorporates the occasional storytelling invention of his own. At the beginning, school children explore the cavernous Egyptian exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with flashlights, presumably on a school trip. Among them is our show’s narrator, the wonderful Laura Berger, who begins to tell the children, and us, the tale of Joseph, his jealous brothers, and how a young dreamer from humble beginnings went on to greatness. You know the story. Once the tale begins, part of the set rises and we’re instantly transported back to ancient Egypt.

The part of the narrator is demanding one. She not only has most of the songs but she needs to have the audience warm to her and her voice in order for the show to work. Often, those cast in this challenging part can occasionally sound shrill – Lloyd Webber didn’t exactly make it easy for the character – but Laura has an exceptionally gifted voice with an enviable ability to sing with such great clarity, I swear she surpasses any of the professional recordings of Joseph that I’ve previously heard, and there are many out there.

Ryan Michael Crimmins injects the right amount of naiveté required for Joseph. He’s a young man so thrilled with his coat of many colors and the ability to interpret his dreams he’s oblivious to the annoyance he causes among his brothers and has no clue of their jealousy. Ryan’s engaging manner and ability to sing – Close Every Door stops the show – is exactly what you want from Joseph.

Paul Black’s scenic design coupled with lighting designer Tim Monson’s ever changing array of colors is as captivating to watch as the performers themselves. In fact, all technical areas, including Tamara Diersen Treat’s colorful costumes, Kurtis W. Overby’s fun choreography, Adam Berger’s excellent music direction and Jason Lynn’s sound design, all add to make Joseph something quite special.

Go and see Joseph for yourself. It may well be one of the most satisfying nights of family entertainment you’ll have in a local valley theatre for some time. You’ll not only leave ABT with the broadest of smiles with the sound of the climactic Joseph Megamix still echoing in your head but you won’t know what song to start singing first on the car journey home.
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