'Joseph' ready for another run at Eastlight

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What would Christmas be without the one musical that has come to signify the Christmas season in central Illinois, even though it isn't a musical about Christmas?

"It just isn't the same, especially for those people who are involved in the show," said Jeremy Kelly, who is director of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" for the second consecutive year.

Added Steve Cordle, executive director of Eastlight Theatre in East Peoria, "It is not a Christmas show. It is not a show about Christmas. But around here, they consider it one. And that is why people keep coming to see it. It has become tradition."

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" will open Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Eastlight Theatre, in East Peoria High School, It is the 23rd consecutive year at the theatre. The show will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14. Matinees starting at 2 p.m. are scheduled Dec. 8 and 15. Tickets are $19 and can be ordered online at tickets.eastlighttheatre.com or by calling 699-7469.

Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is based on the "coat of many colors" from the Hebrew Bible's Book of Genesis and tells the story of Joseph and his 11 brothers.

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.

It was first presented at Eastlight Theatre in 1991.

Cordle has been there, first as technical director before becoming executive director, for all but that first one.

Yet, he never gets tired of it, he said. "It's probably safe to say I have seen this show more than anybody and I have to tell you, I never get tired of it. It is the best selling show we've ever done. People just love it," he said. "I think the appeal is the high energy of the show. It's colorful, fast paced. People look forward to it every year and I can honestly say, I do, too."

For Kelly, directing came after many years of being in the show, starting with the children's choir and advancing to become one of Joseph's brothers.

"I remember once, I decided to take a year off after being in the show for six or seven straight years. I regretted it because that year it just didn't feel like Christmas. And I know others fell the same way. It is just show a energetic and fun show you can't help but enjoy doing it. It's light-hearted and free spirited and can be enjoyed by people of any age," Kelly said.

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

McCarthy has been involved with "Joseph" in the past but this is her first year as narrator.

Joseph is being portrayed this year by Kevin McClelland, making his "Joseph" debut. Kelly said McClelland is not new to performing, however, as he has been involved in barber shop singing. When the need for a Joseph arose, Kelly said McClelland's name was brought up by several other cast members.

Other principals in the show, including Joseph's brothers, include Deric Kimler, who portrayed Jesus in Peoria Players Theatre's production of "Godspell" last spring, and Kyle King, who played Billy in Corn Stock Theatre's "Anything Goes" last summer,

Other veteran performers in the cast include Joel Shoemaker, Aaron Elwell, Kerri Rae and Kristen Williams, who also is music director of the show.

"We've got a great cast and they are a lot of fun to be around. I miss being up on stage with them, playing on stage and having a good time. I keep teasing that they better not get sick or anything or I'll step right into it since I know the show so well. At least as director, I still get to experience the fun," Kelly said.

Not many things about the show have changed through the years, though the set was rebuilt three years ago and new lighting has been added. "As Steve Cordle said to somebody else, 'if it ain't broke, why fix it?' He's right."

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).