The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company is taking JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (at Arsenal Arts through Oct. 4th) back to its roots. JOSEPH started out as a Bible lesson for London school children so director Joey DeMita and Friends are using the original, simplified version, even scaling that down to fit their small ensemble.
The Friends (the “F” in F.U.D.G.E.) capture the playful spirit and innocence of the piece --- so much so that at times it seems a bit freewheeling, like a Sunday school production might. The acting is uneven but always exuberant and with DeMita in charge, always inventive.
Aidan Nevin as Joseph is a bit tentative at first but he warms to the role and his singing is lovely. Alaina Fragoso (who dazzled in F.U.D.G.E.’s SPRING AWAKENING last year) is charming and (normally) sure voiced but why didn’t anyone think of transposing her music so she could reach those high notes? It’s a shame because she’s JOSEPH’s best asset.
Part of the delight in JOSEPH, this being Webber and Rice’s first show, is listening for musical phrases which will reappear in EVITA and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. With Mario Cruz’ tight band, you hear every note. The music in JOSEPH is pastiche so there’s lots of room for broad comedy, like an Elvis-ized Pharaoh (David Gerrie) and a hilarious “Benjamin Calypso” with Kelton Washington and a sweet faced puppet Benjamin!
The adorable puppets are just one of DeMita’s ingenious ideas for the musical. Pity there weren’t more little ones in the audience to enjoy them: This really is a show for children.