Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
When: Dec. 12-31
Where: Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Rd.
Tickets: from $29, at gatewaytheatre.com and 604-270-1812
Just over 50 years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice sat down to write a commissioned piece for a school choir. What began as a 15-minute pop cantata for Colet Court school in London has grown into the worldwide musical juggernaut that is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
“I love it now,” said director Barbara Tomasic, who first saw the show five years ago at Theatre Under the Stars. “I was definitely curious about it, because so many people love it and it wasn’t something I was familiar with. There are a lot of people who love, love, love the show. So it’s been a cool process to discover why. There is a sense of joy and purity in it that’s really beautiful.”
Tomasic is directing Gateway Theatre’s new production. For the show, which is usually set in ancient Egypt, the company is introducing a new character, a young boy, and setting the action in what she calls “a dream world.”
“It’s still telling the same story, but we see it through the eyes of this little boy,” she said. “A narrator leads him through his dreams, which are very colourful. Every scene has a different colour feel. It’s very heightened.”
The boy is played by 10-year-old Timothy Liu. “He’s never done a show before, and there’s an innocence to him. He’s not a perform-y kid. He has a real sense of authenticity and joy. Having him in rehearsal every day is a good reminder for all of us not only that what we do has a huge impact, but how it’s also fun and playful.”
Oliver Castillo, the recipient of a Jessie Award for a 2018 production of Sweeney Todd, plays Joseph.
“I met Oliver when he was a student at Capilano University, and he was my voice student,” Tomasic said. “I’ve worked with him a number of times. When he auditioned we loved the vulnerability and presence that he brought to the part. He is also a lovely person, wonderful to work with, and we knew he was the perfect person to play Joseph.”
Tomasic, who has directed The Music Man, Crazy for You and Wizard of Oz for Gateway, is working with a team that includes music director Christopher King and choreographer Nicol Spinola.
“This show is sung-through, so there’s no speaking in it, it has more of an operatic structure,” Tomasic said. “So it’s very collaborative, just because the music and movement are so integrated within the story. We’ve had to partner closely on each piece because it’s all song and dance all the way through.”
Many people know Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat through the 1999 direct-to-video version starring Donny Osmond. The show continues to be produced all over the world.
“I think the music is a huge part of it,” said Tomasic. “And the message of joy and hope is also a huge part of it. People keep coming back for that message. And the show is great for children, it’s great for adults. It has some fun jokes that only adults will get. And the songs are so singable. People will be humming the songs as they leave the theatre.”
Like her. “Yes. Much to the dismay of everyone in my life, I’m singing Go, Go, Go, Joseph on the regular.”