It wasn’t a first time dinner theatre experience for me as I had been to them as a child. However, it was the first in a long time and the first for my girlfriend. So we took in the campy Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technical Dreamcoat” at the Baltimore location of Toby’s Dinner Theater. I last saw a production of this show on Broadway in 1994 that starred Michael Damian of soap opera and pop music one hit wonder fame. And this production lived up to all of its’ campy goodness in a lightning quick under 2 hour production, including a 30 minute intermission. Joseph should be a rollicking good time as it has catchy songs from beginning to end and is a less than serious show with songs in the style of country music, calypso, and a french ballad while telling the biblical story of Joseph. And what re-telling of a biblical story wouldn’t be complete without an Elvis impersonating Pharoh. Seeing a show like Joseph at a dinner theater was the perfect tone, because I am fairly sure a heavy drama wouldn’t play so well in this atmosphere.
We didn’t really know what to expect walking in. But were pleasantly surprised with the whole evening. From the buffet dinner through the performance. Some of the more unexpected moments for us were the onstage recognition of all the birthdays and anniversaries in the audience, not the typical theater experience. In our case it took a bit of time as there were 20 of them to run through. Another distinct experience is that you connect with the most unexpected characters, the characters portrayed by your waiter or waitress. In our case, our waiter was Ian Brown-Gorrell who also played the dual roles of Joseph’s brother Isaachar and the Pharoh’s butler. Not the largest roles in the show, but you definitely keep a closer eye on your waiter/performer than if he had just been another member of the cast. And I am pleased to say that he did an excellent job. Without really knowing his background he definitely appeared to have some background or training in dance.
I fully expected a variant range in capabilities of the performers to sing and dance and I did get what I expected. But the lead roles of the Narrator, played by Coby Kay Callahan, and Joseph, played by Ben Lurye, definitely had the singing chops to carry the show throughout. There was some facial overacting by members of the ensemble cast and you could tell that dance wasn’t the strongest suit of some of the male members of the cast, but those performers were not put in positions of having to carry any particular scene and did not distract from the overall experience. There also appeared to be some sound issues with some of the microphones during the performance. It never was an issue for us as we were seated front and center, but those further back and to the sides may have had issues. The other criticism is that the announced intermission was to be 15 to 20 minutes, but it creeped all the way to 30 minutes.
But at the end of the day, we had a really fun time and will be headed back again. In fact, we will be back for their production of “The Wiz” this spring where my girlfriend’s birthday will be one of those announced on stage.
Coming Up: Jekyll & Hyde at the Kennedy Center November 21 and You For Me, Me For You at Woolly Mammoth November 23.