Andrew Lloyd Webber’s biblical musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” gets done in Utah a lot — there are currently four productions on the calendar, with two playing within an hour’s drive of each other this very moment — but the Sundance Summer Theatre production might be a first.
The show uses the same script and music tracks as always, but there’s a twist: The show has a Western, cowboy theme.
“I guess the question we asked is what if a group of cowboys told this story?” said director Terry Petrie. “And what better place than a campfire at Sundance? And so that, coupled with my love for the good old-fashioned Western movie, with their simple themes of hope for the future, where good ultimately triumphs over evil, this all intrigued me. So we put this high directorial concept on it.”
He said that the production communicates the updated setting almost entirely without touching the text itself.
“During the overture, which usually you don’t have people onstage, I have them come out to introduce the fact that these are cowboys at Jacob and Sons Ranch, and we don’t do that with lines, we just do that with ‘The Magnificent Seven’ ... line of people walking towards the camera,” Petrie said. “And then the wives come on and they start the fire and they get the wagon in the right place, and they do some set changes, so we know these are working cowboys on a ranch, and then they exit and then the play starts.”
And even though the music isn’t changed, the dancing gives it a new take.
“We changed the choreography,” Petrie said. “So there’s a lot more Western dance and a lot more line dancing and a lot more sort of square dancing things, and that really freshens the show up.”
Emily Lyons, who plays the narrator in the show, said she enjoys the Western flair of this production.
“I get to wear a cowboy hat — and a light-up cowboy hat,” she said. “ ‘Joseph’ is a fun show. It’s for the family, it’s got a really awesome message, several different messages, so I think that (the concept) just adds to the fun of it, the experience, the escapism of theater that can be so awesome.”
She said the light-up hat is an homage to Sundance founder Robert Redford’s “Electric Horseman.”
And the titular costume piece — Joseph’s coat of many colors — has been given a Western theme, too.
“The coat is so cool, I love it in our show,” Lyons said. “It’s like a patchwork bandanna, so that’s something that I thought was really cute and fun and fit really well with the concept. It’s a rainbow, technicolor dreamcoat, but it’s also still very Western.”
The show is another co-production between Utah Valley University Theatre and Sundance Mountain Resort. Petrie, who teaches at the university, said the collaboration continues to be a fruitful one.
“It gives (students) lots of opportunity to experience and participate in theater at a high level,” he said. “We continue to improve and work on the quality of productions out there.”
Concept aside, Petrie is happy to direct a production of “Joseph,” a show he first saw with his family in the early 1990s, starring Donny Osmond.
“I found the music to be infectious, the voices pure and powerful, the spectacle enticing and the story fascinating,” he said. “And I did not think you could do that by just writing music, so it’s stuck with me for a long time, and I’ve of course now wanted to share that story with my grandchildren.”