Anthony Fedorov has the dazzling look and sound, but the heart of "Joseph" rests with the children.
One girl dropped a baton, another a faux candle. A young lad was late to his spot in the dance line and struggled to get in sync. While most patrons likely visited the Ordway in St. Paul Friday night to see Anthony Fedorov ("American Idol" finalist a few years ago) in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," 41 young children provided a swarming and delightful charm.
That's not intended as a slight to Fedorov. He looks like a Nordic god and sings the role beautifully, even if he never overwhelms us with charisma. Nor does it diminish director and choreographer James Rocco. With few exceptions, Rocco's production glitters with color, dances with fierce energy and sings richly. But amid the lacquered glam, the presence of children keeps this show grounded as an essential fairy tale full of dreams and hope.
Jennifer Paz, who starred in the first national Broadway tour of "Miss Saigon," makes an attractive Narrator. Her voice rings clearly in telling this biblical story of Joseph and his 11 brothers and their wives. While Paz and Federov give the production some national credibility, it's more fun watching the local faces in the ensemble.
For example, it is a marvel that T. Mychael Rambo can get his words out of his mouth, so dust-dry is his twist on Potiphar as a modern-day fop. Joel Liestman gets on a country drawl for "One More Angel in Heaven." Dancers Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan do a brisk and funny duet in the Parisian homage "Canaan Days."
Speaking of that number, Jered Tanner's throaty and campy send-up is perfectly over the top -- just the show-stopper it should be.
In contrast, Stewart Gregory drew the plum role of Pharoah -- Elvis of the Nile -- but doesn't seal the deal. The "Song of the King" should bring down the house, but Gregory only manages nice applause.
Fedorov sings with great passion. One of his best moments, in terms of finding his emotional power, is when he sings "Close Every Door," with the children's chorus while Joseph is in prison.
The bottom line with "Joseph" is this: Andrew Lloyd Webber's music is so irresistible that you barely need more than a gang of committed singers. Rocco gives us far more -- a brightly paced staging teeming with humanity. Save an indulgent and wearying curtain call, it's a very good production.
And those cute kids. Isn't that what the holidays are about?
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299 firstname.lastname@example.org