Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat stars a singer who grew up loving the show and a director who's never seen it performed.
Instead of watching the film adaptation or video clips from Broadway performances, director Cory Moosman kept himself in the dark (figuratively); he listened only to cast albums to prep for this Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center show.
"I wanted my ideas to feel like my ideas," he explains.
On the other hand, Joe Mikolaj landed the leading role in a personal favorite. In high school, the Texas native says, he would watch the movie, starring Donny Osmond, and listen to the albums with friends.
A Bible-story-turned-Broadway musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's stage adaptation tells the story of Joseph, the favored man of God, whose hateful brothers attempt to kill him and, when that fails, sell him into slavery.
Surprisingly, the play is neither preachy nor dark, according to Moosman. But it is accessible, because so many can relate to its themes: following your dreams and reuniting with family.
The latter is what brought Mikolaj to Colorado Springs in the first place. After graduating from Yale School of Music last May with a masters in vocal performance, Mikolaj moved here to be with his brother before taking a crack at the big time. The FAC happened to be casting for Joseph.
Call it fate, call it coincidence, call it what you will. As far as Moosman's concerned, Joseph is Mikolaj's calling.
"Joe has this exceptional instrument as a singer," Moosman says, that's "very empowering; it makes you feel like, 'At this point, I can do anything,' because his voice is such a pure, pristine singing voice that you can get away with so much.
"When you work with someone and they were born to do the show, that's when it's perfect," he says. "You don't have to worry about that part of it, you worry about other things."
Like putting your creative stamp on such a beloved show. Carefully.
When directors make drastic decisions, they can "stray too far from the storytelling," Moosman says, "and it's not about the storytelling, it's about trying to show off." Many people, he adds, see a show like Joseph because it's "kind of like comfort food — they know they're gonna have a good time."
So Moosman is finding his inspiration from within the show itself. For instance, the music, which changes stylistically from scene to scene. "You've got a western number and a French bistro number and a calypso number," he says. "We're really playing up what those elements are and going to town with it."
Another part of the spectacle: a complex choreography kaleidoscope by Mary Ripper Baker during the "Coat of Many Colors" sequence. "It's this big, visual, crazy circular thing," says Moosman. "I mean, there's no other way to explain it."
His description of the show as a whole is somewhat similar.
"It's a big, love, happy, family show. It's lots of flash, bash, big numbers, big band, but ultimately it's a big bang."
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.