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High-tech 'Dreamcoat' — Ever-popular 'Joseph' takes Hale stage with boost from technology

Published: Saturday, July 30 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

Hale Centre Theatre

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," the Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice smash-hit musical, was first performed in the late 1960s.

But especially after Donny Osmond took the title role more than a decade ago, "Joseph-mania" captivated Utah.

Herriman, Draper and Lehi have or will put on performances this year. Pickleville Playhouse, near Bear Lake, is currently offering its take on the musical. Tuacahn Amphitheatre has included "Joseph" in its repertory three times in six years. Hale Centre Theatre did it three times in four years.

But after a nine-year hiatus, HCT is endeavoring to do it again.

"It's a hard show … and it's been done so many times," said Kacey Udy, master set designer. "To try to make it something fresh and something exciting is a challenge for us." But the crew is confident about meeting that challenge.

"Everything is over the top with 'Joseph,' " said Sally Dietlin, executive producer. "We're going to be able to bring all of that."

Casey Elliot, one of two men cast to play the lead role, believes that HCT provides a "Broadway level of quality" that you don't find in the various community productions.

"The talent base is just extraordinary," said Marilyn Montgomery, director and choreographer. She added that some of the performers have the chops to "vocally knock your socks off." This will be the fourth time Montgomery has directed the musical for the theater, and she feels she's lucked out with a top-notch cast for this rendition.

Montgomery believes that the show's quality will extend beyond just vocal talent, however good it may be.

"The last couple (performances of 'Joseph') that I've done I think that I ended up getting to the heart of the story, and that's really important," Montgomery said.

"If it's done right … you actually get a great story. … It really bespeaks integrity and brotherly love," Dietlin said, describing other broad truths the musical conveys that she believes play a vital role in Utah residents' particular love of the musical. She also said that the musical was originally written as a Catholic school play.

"The story is biblical, so it sort of resonates with the culture in Utah," Elliot said as he tried to put a finger on why Utah seems to love the musical so much. Coincidentally, he also played the role of Joseph in his high school's version of the musical here years ago.

Biblical stories, values-based themes and family-friendly entertainment coupled with a video version starring Osmond, who Elliot called a "Mormon superhero" — how could Utah resist?

But, as Montgomery pointed out, Utah's not alone in embracing "Joseph."

"Those are all elements that everybody wants to feel, even if they're not from Utah or Salt Lake where it's so heavy with the (LDS) Church, but especially here."

Aside from having vocal talent and fine-tuning the feel-good messages of the play, the cast and crew are excited about the technology of the performance.

Udy said he believes the technology is something HCT is especially known for. Hale has made its 28-by-24-foot center stage come to life for a different take on a number of classics.

"We use our stage to its fullest," Udy said, after stating that this show will have more lighting and automation than it ever has at the theater.

"It's been nine years," Montgomery said. "We're more high tech, we're up to date."

Some features that the crew are particularly excited about include a 10-foot-tall interactive camel and a truly "Technicolor" coat. Udy said they've done a lot of travelling and working with experts for the costumes, including the crew that does costumes for "Dancing With the Stars."

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