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Theater Review: Joseph’s coat fits well at Fireside Theatre

May 5, 2010

Editor’s note: The following review was written prior to the end of the show’s run May 2.

By Bill Beard

If you ever go to see theater musicals and you still have never seem Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, then shame on you! But never fear! Right now…and for two more weeks…you can see a fantastic production of this early Andrew Lloyd Webber hit just a short drive up I-90 North, at The Fireside Dinner Theatre in Fort Atkinson, Wis.

Artistic Director Ed Flesch has staged this wonderful musical romp again (he’s done previous productions); but this time, with the ultimate cast headed by the endearingly appealing Ian Patrick Gibb in the title role, and with a full cast of top-notch actor-singer-dancers, leaving very little to criticize.

The first time I saw this show was at Inverness, Scotland’s very professional Eden Court Theatre, back in the early 1980s, when tickets for the best seats in the house were about seven “quid,” $10. That production was brilliant; and this time, nearly 30 years later, I had the thrill of seeing the Fireside’s equally brilliant production with my guests and great friends visiting from Scotland, Stirling, not far from Inverness. He is a British actor who has had a long and illustrious career in London and in Britain’s many regional professional theaters, including the Eden Court, visiting the USA with his lovely and discerning wife.

They were amazed. They compared Fireside’s performance with the very best of British regional theater, as well as with much of London’s West End professional fare.

But then, those of us who love American musicals are quite aware that one can always depend on the Klopsic family’s Fireside for the best shows around.

The ensemble that Flesch has put together this time is uniformly talented, and his staging of the various “special” numbers is almost flawless. Cooper David Grodin’s rendition of “Song of a King” is perhaps the best and funniest Elvis impersonation ever (with Scott Lane and Pamela Rehberg’s perfect costume, including the wonderful oversized gold turbin hiding the enormous Elvis wig).

The other stylized numbers, each one a surprise to a first-time audience, most of them performed by the 11 brothers, are equally on target: the country Western hoedown style of “One More Angel in Heaven”; or “Those Canaan Days,” the French café lament (a la Marlene Dietrick, only by the male chorus); and, of course, “Benjamin Calypso,” replete with steel drums and maracas, and featuring talented Rockford actor Kyle Adams.

The brothers form the ensemble, along with four very talented women, all doing double, triple, multiple duty in many roles. Special recognition is absolutely necessary for the magnificently sensual dancing of Lindsay Moore as the seductive Mrs. Potiphar. You may not have noticed her all that much in last year’s High School Musical, but believe me, you’ll notice her here…and love her!

The narrators, who are key to the telling of the entire detailed story, all of it sung, are both beautiful, talented women—Kari Ringer of Otterbein College and Sara Ruzicka of Shenandoah Conservatory. Both have excellently trained voices, needed for the unusually high range of this score. But whether it was that the mikes were simply over-amplified, or if the range forced them to push the singing volume, the result was over-powering, almost to the point of annoying. I would hope the problem has been recognized and corrected. These lovely ladies deserve the best.

As always, I honestly encourage you to call for reservations right away. It truly is an excellent show, and the food is always great. What a perfect family night out, or weekend matinee.

It plays through May 2. Phone 800-477-9505 or go online at www.firesidetheatre.com.

From the May 5-11, 2010 issue

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