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'Joseph' opens for 21st year on Friday

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Like the Santa Clause and Festival of Lights parades, or the Journal Star Christmas Sing and Yule Like Peoria, there is an annual production in East Peoria that has become a holiday staple.

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" will open Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Eastlight Theatre in East Peoria, the 21st consecutive year at the theatre based n East Peoria High School.

Robin Hunt is the show's director this year, her fourth year at the helm of the muscial written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice that tells the story of Joseph and his 11 brothers.

The show will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Matinees starting at 2 p.m. are scheduled Dec. 4 and 11. Tickets are $17 and can be ordered online at tickets.eastlighttheatre.com or by calling 699-7469.

"This is such a great, great show with a fabulous moral that says anybody can rise above their problems and accomplish anything if they really want it and really try," Hunt said.

"It's a wonderful family show that has become a big part of holiday tradition in central Illinois because it is such a warm story, with fun and wonderful and very colorful music and sets," she added.

A new set was built for last year's 20th anniversary and it remains, along with new choreography and costumes. There are cast changes nearly every year but this year, Brandon Chandler, a veteran central Illinois performer, reprises the role of Joseph.

"One of the things I love most about this cast is the energy they bring forth every night. But the music is such you can't help but perform it with energy," Hunt said.

(Photo courtesy of Eastlight Theatre) Brandon Chandler, front left, and other cast members of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" perform a song from the 2010 production at Eastlight Theatre. The 2011 production, with Chandler again playing Joseph, opens Friday."Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" was Hunt's first show as a director after several years as a performer and/or choreographer for many shows throughout central Illinois. By directing "Joseph" she caught the directing bug, she acknowledges, and has plans to direct other blockbuster shows in the near future.

That includes the school version of "Les Miserables" at Eastlight in September 2012.

It's possible, Hunt said, this will be her last time directing "Joseph" because of the time commitment to direct other pieces.

"Whether I do it or not, Joseph will continue. Somebody will direct it because it is such a good show and, like I said, has become very much a part of the holiday tradition here. There are families that come every year, including some who have made it every year since it opened. It's become part of their own holiday tradition," she said.

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is based on the "coat of many colors" from the Hebrew Bible's Book of Genesis.

It was the first Webber and Rice musical performed publicly. Written in the late 1960s it did not make it to Broadway until 1982, nine years after it debuted in London.

There is little dialogue in the show save for a narrator, this year performed by Bree Carroll. Most of the story is told in song.

"It's not unusual to see people in the audience singing along to the music," Hunt said.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).