Joseph… has arrived, and he is more fabulous than ever. The Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical hits New York in a next-level concert staging at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall for one night only February 17, and (as you can see in the preview video above) it’s going to be wild.
Two-time Tony-nominated director Michael Arden (Spring Awakening, Once On This Island) brings his singular vision to the Manhattan Concert Productions staging, as part of the Broadway series. Based on the biblical story of Joseph, one of 12 sons of Jacob, and his power of dream interpretation, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has not been seen on this scale in New York since the 1993 Broadway revival.
“It was a chance to do a show that everybody loves and, and sort of make my statement with the casting,” says Arden. It’s coming in loud and clear. Merle Dandridge plays Pharoah. The brothers are played by actors of all races and genders—Robert Ariza, Rodrick Covington, Jason Gotay, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Mykal Kilgore, Tiffany Mann, Julia Mattison, Bonnie Milligan, Brian Sears, Daniel Yearwood, and Mason Grey Zaroff. And they are not “siblings,” they are brothers.
“I've assembled a group of people who all are outside of their own box,” says Arden. “To be able to get to see them shine and celebrate them in new and exciting ways, I think should be really fun and hopefully be inspiring for these kids; so a young woman or non-binary person who might say, ‘Hey, I want to do this,’ and they're not usually given the opportunity, [we can say], ‘Actually, just keep dreaming because look at Joseph done in a professional way.”
This fresh casting not only offers an open-minded perspective, it creates an entirely new sound for Lloyd Weber’s score. As belter Bonnie Milligan (Head Over Heels) wails on “Those Canaan Days,” we consider that perhaps the Act 2 noir-ballad is actually the musical’s sleeper hit. (Watch the video above for a clip of the song.)
Arden embraces the naturally queer bent of the show. “It's the gay Bible story,” he says. “I mean that's what I keep telling people. Like Joseph is… He loved his coat. He was fabulous, and his brothers couldn't handle that—and that's like a theme that we still deal with in the world today.
“I wanted to just make this as gay as possible.”
Still, Arden has combined camp spectacular and ballroom energy with grounded substance. Noah Galvin, who plays the title character, calls it “a universal tale of otherness.”
Galvin considers Joseph’s reveal of his dreams and his interpretive powers like a kind of coming out and for “any person who has a coming out experience that doesn't go as planned or goes poorly, this is a beautiful tale of redemption [of someone who] goes through the trials and tribulations and still becomes Pharaoh's second in command.”
“He's really like getting into deeper themes that I didn't expect,” says Eden Espinosa of Arden. Espinosa shares the part of the Narrator with fellow big voices Jessica Vosk and Alex Newell. “It's interesting… playing this role with a fellow Elphaba,” says Vosk. (She and Espinosa have both played the Green Girl.) “This is somewhat the same in that there's somebody who's very different and has something about them that makes them different or ‘above the rest,’ and [people] feel threatened and they take [that specialness] away.”
When Joseph… hits the stage, the only thing people will be threatened by is the talent of this professional ensemble (“That's the beauty of the MCP Broadway series is that all of these people would normally be booked,” says Galvin) and the 200-person choir backing them. Joseph may have been a man ahead of his time, but this production proves the musical’s timelessness.