Neon lights and fabulous hotels on the strip
Jackpot bells, rolling dice, dealing cards
Showgirls in feathers and pearls
All these iconic images scream Welcome to Las Vegas! However, what they don’t quite scream is the Holy Bible. And yet, as we enter the Drury Lane Theatre prepared for the biblical tale of JOSEPH AND THE TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, when we recognize the pyramid of the Luxor Hotel bathed in neon lights we realize we’re in for a show outside of our expectations.
Drury Lane Continues its Unconventional Season
With Drury Lane’s addition of JOSEPH to their current season, the streak of flipping classic musicals on their heads continues. This is not the family-friendly, sitting around the campfire, Donny Osmond, fable version of this musical.
Director Alan Souza has decided to update this story for contemporary audiences and make this show more palatable for adults. We’re flown to the polar opposite of this Christian fable - Las Vegas. Sin City itself.
Once you’ve thrown those expectations of a happy-go-lucky-show out the window, settle yourself in for an evening of a modern day JOSEPH.
Spirit of JOSEPH Still Remains
While we’re out of the desert of the Old Testament and into the desert of Nevada, the story and music of the original musical remain intact, just tweaked a bit to fit this new vision.
Our main guy, Joe, checks in to his room at the Luxor Hotel and settles in for a restful night. Much like the original Joseph, this modern Joe is also a dreamer. While he’s sleeping, his dreams become the story of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat (for those unfamiliar - have a look at the book of Genesis).
Our narrator appears at his window and introduces him to his father and eleven brothers who pop out of his room’s closet, bathroom, and even the entertainment center! We’re taken on a journey alternating between Joe in his real world and dream world.
The music also keeps the spirit of the original musical as well. Originally, Andrew Lloyd Weber took us through a wheel of musical genres with the songs in JOSEPH going from country western, to rock and roll, all the way to the disco era. Here, we still get that same variety except made to fit our narrator’s personal repertoire.
Britney, and Celine, and Shania, Oh My!
Our narrator is Christina Bianco. She guides Joe through his story and slowly the lines are blurred between what is real and what is a dream. However, Bianco is no ordinary narrator. Known for her famous Youtube videos, she’s turned Broadway actress with her spot on celebrity impressions. Drury Lane has cashed in on Bianco’s impersonation skills as she becomes various stars narrating Joe’s journey.
She’s pop Britney, snake and all, pouting to “Poor, Poor Joseph.”
She’s soulful and embracing her inner star power and as Celine during “A Pharaoh Story.”
And she pulls out her country twang as Shania Twain in “The Brothers Come to Egypt.”
For first-timers unfamiliar with the music, some of those stars’ voices make understanding the lyrics a little hard. But whether you’ve heard of her or not, Bianco is a comedic show stealer and adds to the feel of Las Vegas showmanship with her different “acts.”
Not Without Other Star Power
Of course our headliner narrator needs to have a cast beside her that has star power all their own. The ensemble of eleven brothers were outstanding every time they were onstage. Their dance numbers by choreographer Grady McLeod Bowman were eye-catching and their vocals harmonized perfectly.
And Joe played by Evan Alexander Smith, is equally funny as his narrator counterpart. He plays the dazed and confused modern day man tossed into a crazy story with hilariously wide-eyed confusion every time he’s onstage. And when he starts going along with his dreams, he accepts his fame with panache and flair, twirling and flaunting his new technicolor coat.
Pure Entertainment Value
JOSEPH at Drury Lane is a good show for anyone looking for an updated version of Joseph or someone who doesn’t have a penchant for the original in the first place. It's probably not the best fit for someone who holds the original musical near and dear to their heart or someone who enjoys the religious aspect of it.
Though this writer did miss some of the charm and feel-goodness of the original, leaving the sands of Israel in favor of a modern setting is quite enjoyable. The ambiguity of what's real and what's a dream gives us another level to think about. It's fun, fantastical, and overall hilarious.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Now through March 25, 2018
Wednesdays: 1:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 1:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Fridays: 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 5:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Sundays: 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
100 Drury Lane
Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
About the Author
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski