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D-DHS performs 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'

photo: ddhs play

By Donna Lenz Wright

(Published March 14, 2007, 12:29 p.m.)

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is a tried-and-true favorite with audiences, written by the well-known team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, writers of "Jesus Christ Superstar."

Delavan-Darien High School will present their performance March 16-18.

"Our three narrators tell the story of Joseph, a young man from Biblical times who is resented by his 11 brothers because he is Jacob's favorite son," said Kerry Buttita, producer/director. "After Jacob gives Joseph a coat of many colors, the brothers become so envious that they sell Joseph to slavery in Egypt."

The story can be found in Genesis, Chapter 39.

"Joseph's fortunes rise and fall and eventually rise again when he becomes Pharaoh's No. 1-a position that allows him to help his brothers when the whole family is later united in Egypt," she continued.

Webber and Rice first saw their show on stage in 1968 in London, written as a 15-minute children's skit, according to PBS. It transformed into a full-stage production in subsequent years.

"The entire story is told through song, including calypso, hip-hop, country and '60s rock, just to name of few of the diverse styles incorporated into this musical," Buttita says.

Choosing a production of this size can be a bit intimidating, considering its level of difficulty, but Buttita says several aspects came together convincing her that the Delavan-Darien High School (D-DHS) Players could take on a show of this caliber.

"(Director Jim Larson's) criteria is that it should be a modern musical, which is to say a musical where the songs further the story," she said. "In the case of Joseph, the songs are the story, because there is very limited dialogue and it all occurs with music under it.

"A second reason we chose this play was because when we looked at our upperclassmen, we were loaded with guys-a problem that most high school drama departments only dream of having.

"A third has to do with the show we performed last year ("Into the Woods"), a great show for our ensemble cast of leads, but not so much fun if you were in the chorus. In Joseph, the chorus is a more integral part of the show-they get to dance and participate in the telling of the story right along with all the leads."

While the size of the cast-over 60 students-shows incredible participation, it created numerous special challenges.

"With a cast of this size we need our production staff to take on multiple tasks," Buttita said. Her usual role of director has become primarily producer for this production.

Jim Larson, choral director and pit conductor, is the primary director of this show, and "it is his vision that you will see in most of the scenes," she said.

Janet Palmer, assistant director and choreographer, worked closely with Denise Olson and Laura McLeod as well as student choreographers Garrett Volpandesta (Big Foot High School) and Becca Jacobson (D-DHS).

They choreographed multiple numbers in the show and helped with costumes and set design.

"Kay Ransom was our costume mistress (designer)-with the help of several cast mothers-an enormous task when you consider that each student has at least four different costumes, most of which were sewn specifically for them," Buttita exclaimed.

Clever special effects will be used to take audiences back to the days of ancient Egypt and the show instills many messages to the human experience relatable for audience members young and old.

"(The show) is about unadulterated fun with the underlying message that anyone from anywhere can make it if they get a lucky break and work hard," Buttita said.

"(Palmer) sees Joseph as a message of faith, in whatever you happen to believe in.

"I find that I look at Joseph through the eyes of a quilter. I think the message is that each of us has our own 'coat of many colors' that was given to us when we

were young by someone who loved us. Its patches are the stories they shared and the lessons they taught us and as we grow, the coat provides comfort to us on our journey."

The children's choir, made up of students from second through sixth grade, posed special obstacles unusual for a high school stage show, Buttita says.

"The show starts with the children's choir and Joseph singing together, and (during rehearsals) they were doing fine.

After a few minutes the curtain opens to reveal the full cast singing in full voice. The younger kids were supposed to be singing but they sat open-mouthed, totally transfixed by the huge cast before them and they failed to sing another note in the rest of the opening song.

"It was very cute. I hope our audiences feel the same as those kids did."

An interesting casting technique, called split casting, is being used for the role of Joseph.

"Joseph will be played by Dane Palmer on Friday and Sunday, and Mike Danovich on Saturday. This type of casting is only possible when you have very talented performers."

"We have also made some changes to the main female role, the narrator, which instead of being played by one actor will be played by three of our upperclassmen, Sadie Jeninga, Ashley Kort and Danielle Weimer.

"Dividing the narrator part into three has brought its own challenges. In the video, the narrator subtly interacts with the brothers during their scenes. When you have three narrators, it is much more confusing to have each of them interacting during the same song, so blocking their actions has become much more difficult."

The cast and crew is one of superior high-school-level casts, Buttita said.

"We have talented vocalists featured in solos, duets and small group harmonies that tell the story of Joseph and his brothers. We have strong actors-the ones who intuitively know when the scenes call for slapstick humor and grand over-the-top gestures, or when the mood calls for more controlled actions to further the story."

The students are taking away some very solid messages from this production.

"If you try hard enough, you can achieve anything," said Mike Danovich, senior, who plays Joseph.

"Joseph is about thinking before you do things, because you might regret it later," said Courtney Carro, chorus member.

"Joseph is a reminder that you should love everyone because you never know who is going to need help, or who you're going to need help from," said Evan Koepnick, who portrays Simeon.

"We apparently see what we want to see in this show because of who we are and what we believe in," Buttita said of the different perceptions of the show's messages. "And perhaps that's enough reason to come see the show-because it will reaffirm your belief in something you hold dear."

The final production to take place in this D-DHS auditorium, as demolition begins the end of March, is March 16-17 at 7 p.m. and March 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and senior citizens and $7 for adults For more information, call 728-2642.

The author is a staff writer for the Week.

The photographer is a student at D-DHS and plays Dan's wife in the show.

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