Local kids stage lively version of Webber's
classic tale of betral, redemption
|Austin Hohnke, Chris
Warren and Josh MacDonald, from left, perform a country-inspired
number during a rehearsal for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
on Monday at the Durango Arts Center. The three play
Joseph’s jealous brothers who sell him into
slavery only to grovel for his help later in life./Photo
by Todd Newcomer.
Before Evita, before the Phantom, even before Jesus
Christ, there was Joseph. And through March 6, audiences
will have a chance to relive the Old Testament story of
Jacob’s most beloved son as put to the music of
Andrew Lloyd Webber and performed by local schoolchildren.
The Durango Lively Arts Co., in conjunction with Durango
Arts Force, will present “Joseph and the Amazing
Technicolor Dreamcoat” for the next three weekends
at the Durango Arts Center.
The local version of the hit Broadway musical, which
most recently starred Donny Osmond, features a cast of
actors between the ages of 6 and 16.
Play co-director Wendy Ludgewait, of “A Tuna Christmas”
fame, said although the play was an ambitious undertaking,
it is a perfect fit for kids because of the various musical
genres it incorporates, from country and calypso to blues
“It’s good for kids, they seem to like it
because of its different musical styles,” she said.
The play also is unique in that, like most of Webber’s
works, all the dialogue is sung.
“It’s like a mini operetta,” said the
play’s other co-director Denise Hagemeister, who
also helped with choreography.
Hagemeister also heads up the after-school Arts Force
performance group, Applause, from which many of the play’s
actors were taken. She said “Joseph” offers
younger students a shot at bigger roles that often go
to older students. The play comes on the heels of Durango
High School’s “Experiment With an Air Pump,”
which Hagemeister said is primarily performed by upper
“Consequently, we don’t get the older kids
trying out,” said Hagemeister. “It gives the
younger kids a chance to take the lead.”
Indeed, the lead role went to Scotty Howard, an eighth-grader
at Miller Middle School. Howard, whose lanky, near 6-foot-tall
frame betrays his age, actually comes from a dancing background.
But he transitions well into his role as the dreamy son
of Jacob, who is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.
“He’s really a great kid to work with,”
Likewise, Howard’s fellow actors do an impressive
job of holding their own despite their young4 age. The
role of the narrator, which was divvied up into three
parts for this production, is played captivatingly by
Leah Nikula, 16; Angelica Pozo-DesPortes, 15; and Jessica
Hagemeister, 15 (and daughter of Denise).
|Freshman Angelica Pozo-DesPortes,
one of three narrators in the play,
sings to the audience during a
scene./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
Another memorable performance is given by 16-year-old
Josh MacDonald, who plays the dual role of one of Joseph’s
brothers as well as the Pharaoh who saves Joseph from
life in prison. In an Elvis impersonation beyond his years,
a pompadour-ed MacDonald sways, sneers and gyrates his
way through an entertaining R&B number in which he
begs Joseph to help in deciphering his haunting dreams.
Rounding out the cast is a chorus of younger elementary-aged
children, who listen intently as the narrators unfold
the tale, and Joseph’s 11 rambunctious brothers,
who romp and dance their way through several numbers.
Ludgewait admitted that working with 47 kids, most of
them teens, has its challenges.
“This is the first time I’ve worked with
teen-agers,” she said, wryly adding that choreographing
the boys’ dance numbers was “slightly difficult.”
Nevertheless, she said the devotion of the cast has been
unwavering, and come show time the seven weeks of intense
rehearsal will have paid off.
“They’re incredibly talented,” she
said. “They’re going to have it nailed.”
Ludgewait said at first she was a little worried about
filling all the roles in the boy-intensive play.
“I thought I was going to have to put girls in
boys roles,” she said. “But we were really
In fact, the trio of narrators was created as a way to
get more girls in the play, she said.
Howard, in the lead role of Joseph, pretends to try
on his multicolored coat early in the play./Photo
by Todd Newcomer.
“Denise had done that before and suggested the
concept,” Ludgewait said. “There’s so
few places for girls.”
The Durango version of the play also strays from Webber’s
in that one of the numbers, originally done to a ’70s
disco beat, was transformed into a rap at the request
of the students.
“The kids did that one on their own,” said
Ludgewait. “It used to be a ’70s disco number,
but they couldn’t really relate to that, so we said
‘OK, do what you want with it.’”
The result is a spirited foray that brings the play,
which was first written in 1968, into the new millennium.
In addition to bridging generations, Hagemeister said
the play also created a bridge between students by uniting
actors from the Arts Force with those from Durango Lively
“It takes kids who normally wouldn’t work
together,” she said.
And so far so good with the unique partnership between
the two groups.
“This is the first time Arts Force and Durango
Lively Arts have partnered, and it’s worked really,
really well,” Hagemeister said.
But don’t take her word for it. She believes the
proof will be in the production, which takes to the stage
“I don’t think anyone will be disappointed,”
she said. “The talent of the kids is remarkable
and amazing to watch.”