A brand-new version of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is playing at Drury Lane with that tagline #NottheJoeYouKnow.
Cast and crew are tight-lipped about what that exactly means; suffice to say it's a new take on a familiar classic.
The musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" was the first collaboration between Tim Rice (lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music), taken from the Bible's Book of Genesis. Joseph is his father Jacob's favorite son among his 12, and has dreams that he will one day rule over them all. The brothers consider fratricide, but ultimately decide to just sell him as a slave. The musical then recounts Joseph's rocky road to the top. Famous songs include "Close Every Door," "Go, Go, Go Joseph" and "Any Dream Will Do."
Show times are at 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays and at 2 and 6 p.m. Sundays through March 25. This productions is directed by Alan Souza and choreographed by Grady M. Bowman. It stars Two-Time Drama Desk Award nominee Christiana Bianco (YouTube's "girl of a thousand voices") as the Narrator and Evan Alexander Smith as Joseph.
Souza had previously directed "Camelot" at Drury Lane and was approached to not only helm "Joseph," but to give it a fresh take. Through studying the words, he came up with a theory about how this story unfolds and what the universal journey is, he said.
"What I can say is, it's an everyman tale based on how our dreams lead us to becoming the heroes of our lives," he said. "And it's filled with all kinds of surprises. It's definitely a re-imaging of this classic show. I think what I can guarantee is that it's not being made in the same style that you're accustomed to."
The cast is doing well with the material, he said.
"Our Joseph is terrific," he said of Smith. "I think he's an uncharacteristic choice. He's not that pretty boy. He's 6'5" and a very, very funny character actor who sings gorgeously and I think he'll be a most unique Joseph."
Smith is a Toronto native now living in New York. It's not his first time around with "Joseph." He was in the children's choir when he was in seventh grade, and at 15 he played Joseph in a youth community theater group.
"Because it was my first show, there's always been a deep affinity to it for me," he said. "It's something I never thought I would do again. It's not the kind of part I usually get cast in anymore. It's been a wonderful surprise coming back to it."
"It's not giving too much to say that anybody who Googles me could tell I'm not the typical Donny Osmond-Joseph. I think what they were looking for in this production was somebody who could sing the songs obviously, but more importantly, I think a strong actor who could tell the story and really approach it as if it were a play and to work with the words. In some of our promotional material it says, 'Journey towards the hero in every man.' I think (Souza) was looking for somebody who could convey that everyman essence. I think he saw that in me."
Aside from Smith and Bianco, E. Clayton Cornelius as Judah is the only other non-Chicagoan, Souza said.
"Otherwise, it's an all-Chicago cast, some of them making their Drury Lane debut, which I always love," he said.
Audiences won't want to miss this production, he said.
"They're going to get everything they love about 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' and its infectious score and at the same time, I think they will be completely fascinated and enchanted by the new twist we put on it," he said. "You're going to have a new experience with an old favorite, which is the best way."
Smith agreed, saying that even with the updates, it's still the same story and music people know and love.
"The great thing about this show is if you ask anyone in any town in America they have a brother or a sister or cousin who's performed in the show, or they've performed in the show," he said. "I think it's refreshing to see a story you've known for years through a new kind of lens."
Annie Alleman is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.
When: Through March 25
Where: Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace
Information: 630-530-0111; www.drurylanetheatre.com