Coat of Many Colors: Lawrence Central to present classic ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’


Controlled chaos is the norm for any play rehearsal and that was the case during a recent gathering of cast and crew as Lawrence Central High School gets ready to present “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” the classic 1970s-era musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, set for 7 p.m. April 18 and 19, and 2:30 p.m. April 21 at the school auditorium.

Director Alex Bowman was the calm at the center of the storm, smiling and chatting with students as they practiced songs and dance moves, helped each other apply portable microphones and gossiped.

Bowman said he chose “Joseph” as this year’s spring musical because he knew his students would learn a lot from the production.

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Cast members Kaniah Cheaney, Eduardo Palapa and Tracie Smith strike a pose before rehearsal starts. Cheaney and Smith are the two narrators in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and Palapa plays Joseph. (Photo by Leila Kheiry)

“I have an educational goal for every show — it’s theater education. So, there’s got to be a purpose behind it, right?” he said. “The purpose of this show is, there are so many genres of music, so many genres of dance, that it really becomes a masterclass in style for the kids to really explore, which will build toward them being a little more well-rounded for next season.”

Bowman said about a third of the cast is made up of students new to stage productions.

So far, he said, it’s going well.

“We’re at the stage where we’re polishing — trying to make everything look as good as it can,” he said. “I’m making it sound as good as it can. To be at a point of polishing rather than teaching, that’s a good spot to be.”

Bowman said he has performed in “Joseph” previously and knows how much fun it can be. He added that it’s not performed by schools as often as other musicals, likely because it’s based on a Bible story and public schools have some restrictions when it comes to religion.

“We actually had a lot of good conversations about how we’re approaching this show more like — yes, it is a biblical show, but how we’re approaching it as a story, rather than a biblical story,” he said.

Junior Tracie Smith plays one of the two narrators, and this is her first experience in a musical. She said she’s nervous but so far has enjoyed the experience.

“I really like the culture,” she said. “I came into it as a new person. The group — like a lot of people have already done this before — and when I came in, they were open and welcoming. They welcomed me in. I didn’t feel like the odd one out.”

Smith said singing is her passion, so the opportunity to sing on stage also has been enjoyable.

Senior Eduardo Palapa plays the title character of Joseph and said that was the character he hoped for when auditioning — not only because Joseph is the star.

“I really like how silly the character is and how much I relate to it,” Palapa said. “Sometimes it honestly just feels like I’m playing myself on stage.”

Palapa explained that the character is one of the 12 sons of Jacob and is the favorite.

“The brothers don’t like Joseph because of how much Jacob the father favors him,” Palapa said. “Jacob buys or gets him a coat — like, a rainbow-colored coat — and that was really just the final straw for the brothers and so they sold Joseph to be a slave. And, yeah, he kind of just goes through this journey and later becomes a ruler.”

The musical is presented through singing only — no dialogue — which Palapa said makes it easier to learn. Palapa’s favorite song in the show is “Go, Go, Go, Joseph,” a high-energy tune with lots of dancing.

Bowman said a big challenge with any high school production is how to balance pushing and praising the students.

“You want to make sure you are giving them that good feedback of, you’re doing this really, really well. But here’s how it can be even better,” he said. “You want them to have a good time, you want them to learn, you want them to gain skills. But, at the end of the day, they’re doing this for fun.”

He added that performing arts can help young people learn valuable skills such as time management, communication, delegation and teamwork.

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Cast members rehearse an energetic song and dance piece for the Lawrence Central High School production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” (Photo by Leila Kheiry)

If you go

What: Lawrence Central High School’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat:

When: 7 p.m. April 18 and 19; and 2:30 p.m. April 21

Where: Lawrence Central High School auditorium (Door 11)

How: for tickets — $8 for students and $10 for adults.