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Spotlight: Joseph returns

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Rebekah Bitner Photo At the rehearsals for WWOB's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." Joseph's brothers were not happy with the special treatment Joseph got from their father. Will Joseph have mercy with them, when he gains favors with the pharaoh to whom he was sold?

Way Way Off-Broadway Theatre celebrates its fifth season with a new spin on “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

A new cast, new technology and lots of talent flow into Way Way Off-Broadway Theatre Company’s anniversary season production of the musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

The musical arrived on stage in the hippie-era, with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The humorous musical celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019. It is one of the most enduring shows of all time and re-imagines the biblical story of Joseph, his father Jacob, 11 brothers and the coat of many colors.

While the original music celebrates its 50th anniversary, WWOB is looking back on five seasons in Roswell.

The biblical-based pop musical will be directed for the second time by Tony Souza. “We knew we wanted to do something from Way Way Off-Broadway Theatre’s past,” he said. “We did pretty good on some of the recent shows, but in the early days, we were limited in resources and time — not that those shows weren’t excellent — but we always look into pushing our creative envelope and to improve. ‘Joseph’ fit the bill. It is one of our favorite shows. It’s fun, it’s energetic, it’s bright and colorful. And, we were able to retain some of the set pieces and costumes from the previous production and save a lot of cost that way by simply improving what we had instead of creating something from scratch. It served multi-purposes and we are excited on doing this show again.”

There are many upgrades for this performance. “The lighting has been enhanced — there were some lights built into the set,” Souza said. “They can do even fancier things now. We have improved structurally as well. Some of it was a little spongy in places, so we wanted to make sure the actors are safe. We were finally able to tap into the talents of some people who joined us since the first production: Michelle Massey, Nick Featherstone, a handful of other people that are true artists in their own right and now can lend their paintbrush to some of the set and really make my vision for the set come to life, exactly how I envisioned it. Before it was plain, now we can add good dimensions and shadows through their painting talents. Now that we have a little breathing room in our budgets for more elaborate costumes, Jan Smith upgraded the coat of many colors. It’s beautiful, I want to take it home. It’s absolutely gorgeous. We were able to take and add a lot more details in those costume pieces.”

Anybody who has seen the production before will still be surprised because with an entire new cast, there are new artistic expressions. “It’s really nice to see this show taking on a life of its own,” Souza said. “With a whole new group of people, they bring new characterization that you never thought of, new jokes, new energy to the show, and that’s really exciting to see — even though we are producing the same show on the script, it’s a whole different show from the actors and performers.”

Spenser Willden who recently performed in WWOB’s production of “Grease,” is for the first time switching between actors — playing the butler — and assistant director. “I was just asked if I wanted to assist in directing before I left next year, I did and here we are,” he said. “I really like it, it is really enjoyable. Sometimes it’s challenging not singing along with the show, because me and Tony both have been in it multiple times and just enjoy it so much. It’s weird not being there for certain parts of it but it’s also an interesting, fun change.”

Souza depends on him, stepping up when he is called to his job at the local fire department. All performers and the entire crew are volunteers, rehearsing at night and working one or two jobs during the day, not to mention that many have families as well. It takes a lot of commitment to be a part of the theater family.

New on stage is Juan Macias, who is originally from Roswell and was cast as Joseph’s brother Gad. He is also the understudy for Joseph.

“Right now, I am working full time at a front desk and at La Casa Behavioral Health,” Macias said. “I am going to school at ENMU-R.” While he enjoyed sports growing up, he enjoyed watching musicals and theater, he said. “It’s fantastic to watch — why not be a part of it? I felt I could do it. It’s a fantastic opportunity. I am so happy to be here.”

Kirk Graff considers himself an Army brat, moving with his father around the country and overseas until 2011 when his father found a job at the New Mexico Military Institute. He has experience performing in productions of Goddard High School and has been in NMMI shows. Graff was cast as the lead, Joseph. It is his first performance with WWOB. “It is a lot fun. Everybody is really open and helpful. We’re here to have a really good time.”

Watching Graff on stage rehearsing, the audience can expect a larger than life performance with a lot of heart and talent that rivals professional performers on Broadway.

The cast is large and impressive. Summer Souza is the narrator, Derek Bills was cast as Joseph’s father, Jacob. In the roles of the brothers are, Stephen Muhr as Reuben, John Bitner as Simeon, Phil Davis as Levi, Steven Cholak as Naphtali, Kendrick Davis is Issachar, Jordan Moody is Asher, Brian Cole is Dan, Benjamin Lacaillade is Zebulan, Jason Graff is Judah and Michael Sweeney is Judah.

In the roles of the brothers’ wives are Tabitha Adams, Kamdyn Bishop, Emily Boardman, Stephanie Cholak, Elexis De La Rosa, Keri Graff, Lafonda Humpherys, Jessica LaStella, Aimee Lueras and Michele Massey.

Potiphar is cast with Jon Graff, his wife plays Viridiana Leon, Phil Davis is the baker and Tony Souza returns as Pharaoh.

Jacob Moody, Jake Pope, Oliver Lacaillade and Johnny Romero are in the men’s chorus.

Taryn Davis, Nancy Hein, Wynona Hicks and Marisela Palomino are in the women’s chorus.

The children’s chorus has Owen Adams, Sebastian Bills, Douglas Cole, Ethan Cowart, Alexa De La Rosa, Brailey Horton, Juliana Mendolia, Georgia Moore, Grace Moore, Abigail Muhr, Jewel Solis, Emily Souza, Eric Souza, Morgan Stites and Elise Taylor.

The public has two weekends, March 8 to10 and 15 to 17, to see the show with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m. For more information, visit waywayoffbroadway.com or call 575-317-0157.