DALLAS -- A stadium of confetti cannons and truckloads of caffeinated puppies couldn't come close to matching the energy of Dallas Theater Center's season-closing production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
But a Joseph that isn't bursting with unironic glitz and silliness -- and that therefore doesn't have even the most cynical audience members cheering as if they had glittery pom-poms and were watching a unicorn parade -- isn't a successful Joseph.
By that measure, count DTC's production, directed and choreographed by Joel Ferrell, a rousing success.
The show, created by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, uses the Genesis story of Joseph as its framework, and tells it through music, with myriad dopey songs in a range of pop styles (calypso, country, disco, rock 'n' roll, French torch, and here, hip-hop). Our hero (played with gusto by Syndey James Harcourt) is favored by his mom and pop (Christie Vela and Chamblee Ferguson), his brothers are jealous and sell him to the Egyptians as a slave, and then he interprets dreams for Pharaoh (again Ferguson) and is reunited with his family, saving them from hardship.
A narrator, usually performed by a soprano with a belt, but here by the irresistible and soulful Liz Mikel, guides us along. And in Ferrell's vision, a group of private school kids on a field trip to a biblical museum join in for the ride.
Early Joseph sings Any Dream Will Do, and accordingly, pretty much any concept from a director, as long as it stays colorful and super-peppy, will do, as long as there are plenty of pop culture references and visual jokes. Ferrell does all that, but somehow, he keeps what could be a busy mess reined in. Also, his jokes are undoubtedly more clever than in any other production you've seen -- and considering this is one of the world's most produced musicals, especially by youth and amateur theaters, chances are you've seen more than a handful.
For instance, a gag with an I.V. drip for the Pharoah, who is portrayed as the sequined-onesie, Vegas cheeseball-era Elvis Presley, is priceless.
And that leads us to this show's unforgettable performance by Ferguson. He has long been one of our leading comic actors, but as Jacob, a Potiphar that evokes Iggy Pop as a circus act, and most notably a platinum blond Elvis/Pharaoh, he makes an art form of hamming it up. For Pharaoh, it'd be so easy to do it like every Elvis impersonator you've seen before, but the tall and sinewy Ferguson nails the reference without copy-catting.
It's also fun to see local dramatic actress Vela in roles (and in a musical) that you'd think would be out of her comfort zone, but she slips into them easily and with pizzazz. Joseph doesn't allow limits.
Fabulous scenic (Bob Lavallee), costumes (Wade Laboissonnierre) and wigs and makeup design (Cookie Jordan) add to the party-rock milieu, and if the onstage orchestra sometimes overpowers the cast, well, that's no bummer.
Perhaps nothing (except maybe a running time of two hours, longer than the show has traditionally been) could buzzkill this dream. Cue the confetti cannons.