Metro-East Living

‘Joseph’ director adds more fun, modern twists to family musical

People grovel in the presence of Joseph (Nick Zobrist), who has gone from slave to a powerful man able to give them food to see them through the famine. “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” opens Thursday at the Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon.
People grovel in the presence of Joseph (Nick Zobrist), who has gone from slave to a powerful man able to give them food to see them through the famine. “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” opens Thursday at the Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon. Looking Glass Playhouse

There’s a lot of history behind the Looking Glass Playhouse performance of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

And it’s not just that the musical is based on the “coat of many colors” story of Joseph from the biblical book of Genesis. It opens Thursday for a two-week run at the Lebanon community theater.

Director Glenn Netemeyer calls it “a show that has been very special for our family.” He and his wife, assistant director and vocal coach Robbin Netemeyer, and their son and daughter, Randy and Shannon, have performed in the musical at various metro-east theaters.

But now directing — “My only regret is not being in this” — Glenn has put a bit of his own stamp on the 1982 Tony-nominated Broadway musical with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

“I think you can add so much more fun to it,” he said during a dress rehearsal Monday night. That includes an opening scene of school children learning about Joseph and cast members taking a selfie in the first act. Brad Sanker’s set design includes pyramids that change colors. Costumes are extravagant.

“Hey, it’s in the title, ‘technicolor!’” Glenn said, laughing. Joseph’s “coat of many colors,” brought out of storage, has had lights added that change color. Longtime Looking Glass costume designer Peg Zugar created it for the theater’s 1994 production of “Joseph.”

The show has little spoken dialogue; it is completely sung-through, a hallmark of Lloyd Webber musicals. A variety of music styles includes parodies of French ballads, rock and roll, country-western, 1920s Charleston, Calypso and jazz.

“They’ve done a great job with the music,” said Robbin, who explained that in typical rehearsals for a musical, different directors and coaches divide up cast members, with some working on lines, others on music and choreography. In “Joseph,” with no spoken lines, the job was more intense.

“It’s a first for me; unique,” she said. “And, it’s been interesting to see the cast make the shift between (the types of) music. ... It’s a nice mix of familiar people and new people — and young people. It’s carrying on a tradition.”

Joseph is portrayed by Looking Glass newcomer Nick Zobrist, 23, of Highland. He feels a closeness to the musical as well.

“Actually, the first time I did the show was in 2001, a kids choir,” he said, adding that he was in a high school performance as well. “I have a soft spot in my heart for this show.”

Narrator and another newcomer, Taylor Keel, 21, of Belleville, is enjoying one of the changes Glenn has made in her role. Instead of the narrator standing to one side and singing, she is free to move around the stage.

“I get to interact with the cast and I really like that,” she said.

The narrator opens the musical, telling a story to a group of children that encourages them to dream. She then tells about Joseph, another dreamer and one of 12 sons. His brothers, jealous of their father Jacob’s preference for him, sell Joseph as a slave and he ends up in Egypt. Jacob (Bruce Bowman) believes his son is dead.

Over time, Joseph becomes the head slave in the household of the wealthy Potiphar (Mike Russell), but when the unwanted advances of Potiphar’s wife (Leigh Reidelberger) are misinterpreted by her husband, he is thrown in jail.

There he earns the reputation of being able to interpret dreams and helps the Pharaoh (Russ Reidelberger) understand his. As a reward, he makes Joseph a powerful man who can help save many people.

Nick said his favorite line in the show relates to the changes in Joseph’s life: “It’s, ‘Anyone from anywhere can make it if they get a lucky break.’”

Of course, the brothers make a reappearance, groveling and repentant.

Glenn, a deacon in the Catholic church, said “The Bible teaches us so many wonderful lessons: How we get along with people and forgiveness, in particular.”

At a glance

Here’s what you need to know about “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”:

  • When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sept. 29, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Matinees at 2 p.m. Sept. 25 and Oct. 2.
  • Where: Looking Glass Playhouse, 301 W. St. Louis St., Lebanon
  • Tickets: $10 Thursday and matinees; $12 Friday and Saturday. Seniors, students, military and group reductions available.
  • Information: Buy tickets online at lookingglassplayhouse.com or call 618-537-4962
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