Straight out of COVID-19, Jason Lythgoe will rise to the occasion and perform the title role of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on Saturday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
“I came into the role two weeks ago,” Lythgoe said on Memorial Day. “We had three rehearsals, and then I got COVID. So, last week, I was at home, while the company was getting the show ready without me. I’ve done the show a few times before, but it’s been 17 years since the last go round. It’s almost like a brand-new show in my brain. And I’m excited for all the summer stuff Michael (McKelvey) is starting at Durango Theatreworks.”
McKelvey is the producing director of Durango Theatreworks. He’s also the full-time faculty member at FLC charged with building a musical theater program. As such, he quickly launched three summer productions. “Joseph” will be staged at the Community Concert Hall on Saturday and Sunday. “Heathers: The Musical” will be performed on the Main Stage in the Drama Building July 6 to 17. And, Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” will be performed evenings in the FLC outdoor amphitheater June 30 to July 10.
Auditions and casting began swiftly, and rehearsals for a concert-version of “Joseph” began May 23.
“Originally, when I heard of the project, it was billed as a concert version. So, I had a whole different notion of what I was getting myself into,” Lythgoe said. “We are up singing and dancing and bringing it to life. It’s almost a fully realized production.”
WHAT: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a semi-staged performance, by Durango Theatreworks, directed by Michael McKelvey.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, 1000 Rim Drive.
TICKETS: Range from $12 to $32, and are available online at www.durangoconcerts.com or by phone, 247-7657.
MORE INFORMATION: www.durangotheatreworks.org.
Straight out of Genesis, the biblical story of Joseph unfurled first as a pop cantata in the late 1960s. Composed for an English youth chorus by Andrew Lloyd Webber and his lyricist Tim Rice, the work morphed into a full-length musical in the 1970s. Since then, it has achieved enormous popularity, partly because of its driving energy, hip storytelling and mashup of musical styles. Full of campy, tongue-in-cheek humor, “Joseph” is a 90-minute romp into pop culture.
A narrator quickly sets the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, in motion. The teenager is a dreamer and favored son, so his brothers resent him. Mischief follows. Exile follows. But a happy ending is always in sight.
The company, 30 members strong, includes local professionals and community members. Lythgoe leads the cast as Joseph, with Durango High School’s drama director, Ben Mattson, as Pharoah. Geoff Johnson takes on three roles. Tayler Smith and Melissa Mossinghoff perform narrator duties. An eight-piece orchestra plays the direction of Helen Gregory and Rebecca Thurston.
Joseph’s colorful Dreamcoat has been borrowed from Farmington.
“I haven’t seen the coat yet,” Lythgoe said. “It is the one from Sandstone Productions from a few years ago (see sidebar). It’s themed to this region’s beautiful terrain and colors. So, of course, it’ll have its red and yellow, green and brown, scarlet and black, and ochre and peach, and ... ”
In summer 2011, Farmington’s Sandstone Productions presented “Joseph,” directed by former FLC faculty member Theresa Carson. It featured several Durango performers: Dallas Padoven played the role of Joseph; Mattson memorably sang Brother Simon’s lament in the style of a French torch song that morphed into a mock-angry tango; and Suzy DiSanto imaginatively choreographed numbers in a variety of dance styles, Charleston to Fosse, suitable for a pop-musical coming out of the ’70s. The venue was equally memorable. The Lions Wilderness Amphitheatre is located in the desert outside Farmington, and is still operating. “Joseph” took place at sunset, perfect for this biblical story from the land of Canaan.
For several years, Jason Lythgoe has claimed Durango as home. He is now artistic director of his own company, the new Durango Arts Rep Theatre at Durango Arts Center. A native Californian and graduate of Cal State Fullerton, Lythgoe has performed in more than 150 productions mostly in the Denver-Colorado Springs areas with forays to the Kennedy Center and The Old Globe in San Diego. He’s played Macheath, Bill Sykes, Frog, Scarecrow, John Wilkes Booth, Troilus, Cassio, Claudio and Malvolio – to name his Shakespearean chops – all before arriving in Durango to play Macbeth, Don Quixote/Cervantes and other memorable roles with Merely Players. Technically, Lythgoe is a baritone, but his range enables him to sing into tenor territory, as evidenced by his portrayal not long ago as Archibald Craven in “Secret Garden.”
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.