CCHS’s ‘Dreamcoat’ returns to the local stage
By James Grob, email@example.com
Certainly, there will be dancing.
“Amy Wolfe is an amazing choreographer, this is her fourth show with us,” said Derek Sturtevant, director for Charles City High School’s upcoming production of the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
“We’re really lucky to have her,” he said. “She does a lot of original stuff. She’s very creative with what she comes up with for the stage.”
Tickets are on sale for the show, to be presented Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m. at the North Grand Auditorium. They can be purchased online at www.showtix4u.com or can be purchased in person at Charles City Central Services at the North Grand Building Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Wolfe, a CCHS graduate, was the one doing the singing and dancing on the stage not too long ago. The cast of the show is heavily male, and Wolfe said it’s been an interesting but rewarding challenge for her.
“This is a really guy-heavy show,” Wolfe said. “When I was in high school, we didn’t have a lot of football players coming out for the musical. It’s been really fun to work with people who don’t necessarily have a lot of dance experience.”
Wolfe said she tries to keep that lack of experience in mind as she creates choreography.
“I don’t want it to be too difficult, but I do hold people to a standard,” she said. “You’re going to come out, and you’re going to dance.”
Sturtevant said he chose “Dreamcoat” because he had a surplus of talented male singers and actors who he knew would try out.
“When you have the right cast, you know it’s time to do it,” he said. “You need 13 guys to do this show. We’ve got some that are going to be graduating and some younger ones who just came up, so now is the time.”
The musical, with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is based on the biblical “coat of many colors” story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. The family-friendly story, familiar themes and catchy music have resulted in tens of thousands of stagings.
“Derek thought that it would be a great experience for many of the older upperclassmen and the underclassmen as well,” said co-director Michelle Grob. “It is a religious-based show, and we felt that our community would be very supportive of a show like that as well.”
The main characters are Joseph and his 11 brothers, and three narrators. The title role will be played by Nathan Shultz, while the narrator role will be shared between McKenna Oleson, Madi Lincoln and Darian Cleveland.
“It calls for one narrator, but often schools will use two or more,” Grob said. “There is a lot of really nice three-part harmony, and our three girls harmonize really well together. We’re fortunate that we have three really strong singers who sing well together. It’s worked out really well.”
Although Joseph is the titular character, he isn’t really the main character in the story, Grob said. She added that Shultz has a lot of experience in theater, and was interested right away in the role of Joseph.
“Joseph is the essential piece of the story, but it is a story that is very much about his brothers, and then we have our three narrators who tell the story,” she said. “They are the ones telling the story to the audience, and it’s then acted out.”
The music is presented in a variety of styles, including French ballads, old-time rock ‘n’ roll, country-western, 1920s dance and swing and calypso and jazz, among others. The show has only a few lines of spoken dialogue, and is almost entirely sung through.
Grob said that has made her role as stage director more minimal, at least for the first few weeks of rehearsal, and has given Wolfe much more to do as a choreographer.
“Usually you have a lot of blocking and a little choreography in a musical,” she said. “In this one, you have a lot of choreography and just a little blocking to tie it all together. Our choreographer has had to do a ton of work. She has done a wonderful job.”
Wolfe said that she has enjoyed the somewhat unorthodox process.
“There are a lot of fun songs, a lot of high energy, the guys have a lot of solo dances that they’ve worked real hard on,” Wolfe said. “It’ll be a good show.”
“Dreamcoat” was first produced in the United States in the early 1970s, first appeared on Broadway in 1982 and was nominated for six Tony Awards. The title role of Joseph has famously been played by former teen idols such as Donny Osmond and David Cassidy.
“People love the story, especially people who grew up watching the movie or seeing Donny Osmond,” said Sturtevant. “I think they’re going to enjoy some of the characters we have — students with big personalities that are having fun on stage.”
Janiece Bergland and Larry McHale directed the show at CCHS in 1997, and Bergland designed and built the set of the current production.
“You will definitely see a set that looks familiar,” Sturtevant said. “It’s the whole ‘Joseph comes back to Charles City’ — you’ll recognize some things, some things will be a little bit different.”
The 12-piece orchestra is directed by Bethany Otte, and about 80 students are involved in the production in one way or another, including 30 kids in grades 3 through 6, who make up a children’s choir in the production. The children’s choir has three songs in the show.
“We’re so lucky to have Sue Davis, who is a former elementary music teacher,” Sturtevant said. “She and Allison Hocking, who works at TLC, are helping with the children’s choir. They are completely self-sufficient, which is wonderful. They have great teachers with them.”
Sturtevant said the people of Charles City are going to see an excellent show this first weekend in November.
“They’re going to enjoy the music, they’re going to enjoy the sets, they’re going to enjoy the storyline,” he said.
“The set is super-colorful, our costumes are very colorful. It’s quite eye-catching,” Grob added. “There are very touching parts in it, very funny parts in it, and there are a lot of different styles of music.”