For Ian Patrick Gibb, playing the title character of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” for Music Theatre Wichita is a reminder of a key milestone in his career.
“That’s the role that got me my Equity card when I played ‘Joseph/Dreamcoat’ for the Fireside Theater in Wisconsin,” says Gibb, an Oklahoma City University grad who was a member of the MTWichita resident company for five summers between 2001 and 2009 with featured roles in “All Shook Up,” “Camelot” and “Miss Saigon.”
Since then, he spent two years in the cast of the 25th anniversary national tour of “Les Miserables” and returned to Wichita last summer to play the romantic student rebel Marius in MTWichita’s own encore of “Les Mis.”
Now, Gibb is making the most of his boyish looks and demeanor to play Joseph as the 17-year-old innocent that the biblical character supposedly was.
“Joseph has traditionally been played as a beefy, muscular guy who tends to run around with his shirt off, but we are approaching him more through the eyes of a child. He’s more of an innocent, more modest. We’re taking back the sex scenes between him and Potiphar’s wife because he’s a good kid who does nothing wrong,” Gibb says.
“Joseph is a happy-go-lucky, hard-working kid who just has a lot of bad things happen to him. He perseveres. He keeps his faith. And in the end, he is rewarded,” Gibb says.
“Joseph” was the first collaboration between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to receive a public performance, although their “Jesus Christ Superstar” was the first of their revolutionary “pop/rock operas” to become a hit. Based on the biblical tale of Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, the show began as a 15-minute boys school oratorio in 1968 and was expanded several times, becoming a full-fledged musical in 1974 in England and finally hitting Broadway in 1982. It was turned in a 1999 film with Donny Osmond, and has since become a family-friendly staple with such songs as the wistful “Any Dream Will Do,” the haunting “Close Every Door (To Me)” and the rousing and catchy “Go, Go, Go Joseph.”
Playing The Narrator, a character who speaks directly to the audience, sets the scenes and then participates with the other actors, is Broadway veteran Darcie Roberts, a familiar face and voice for MTWichita as Eliza in “My Fair Lady,” Gigi in “Gigi,” Tzeitl in “Fiddler on the Roof” and Polly in “Crazy for You.” She was last seen here two seasons back as Judy in “9 to 5.”
“The Narrator is sort of an ambiguous character, like the Stage Manager of ‘Our Town’ or Amneris of ‘Aida.’ She is sort of mystical because she instigates the whole story and interacts with it to keep the train on the tracks. But she is also sort of maternal. Because kids are a big part of our show, I feel like a mother to them all,” says Roberts, a mother to three of her own ages 8, 4 and 2. “Kids are so curious about the world. It is my responsibility as a mother and a human being to foster that creativity because they are the future.”
Nicholas F. Saverine, another Broadway veteran and long-time familiar face whose booming operatic voice as Jean Valjean made “Les Miserables” riveting six years ago and again last year, will play the dual role of Jacob/Potiphar. The former is Joseph’s faithful, well-meaning father, and the latter is an arrogant, self-centered aristocrat who buys Joseph as a slave but quickly realizes his talents and elevates him to his head of household. Brooke Lacy plays Potiphar’s seductive, scheming wife who is outraged when Joseph resists her flirting and takes revenge on him.
Playing Pharoah, who demands that wunderkind Joseph interpret his disturbing dreams, is Ryan Vasquez in a comic change of pace after his compelling roles as Lt. Cable in “South Pacific” and Tony in “West Side Story” so far this summer. “Pharoah is very silly and a little dim. He’s a figurehead but he isn’t very savvy,” says Vasquez about a character who has sort of an Elvis complex. “It’s fun to be that outlandish after being serious in ‘South Pacific’ and ‘West Side Story.’ ”
Joseph’s 11 brothers, who out of jealousy and spite sell him into slavery and fib to their father about what happened to him, are Michael Graceffa, Kevin Clay, Jacob Chancellor, Caleb Dicke, Wonza Johnson, Luke Steinhauer, Alexander H. Miller, Daryl Tofa, Tanner Pflueger, Matthew Borchers and Julian Ramos. With a youth chorus of 36 ranging from age 5 to 15, the cast stands at 66 – the largest for any show this summer.
Directing and choreographing are the husband-and-wife team of Lyndy Franklin Smith and Jeromy Smith, who are back for their fifth show with MTWichita, most recently working with last summer’s American premiere of the London musical “Betty Blue Eyes.” Thomas W. Douglas will lead an orchestra of 15 pieces through a score that ranges from contemporary to country to calypso and satirical French ballad.
“It’s a collaboration on all aspects. We work as a team rather than one directing and one choreographing,” says Lyndy Smith. “It’s good because we can bounce ideas off each other. We have two sets of eyes and ears. We have two brains to figure it out. It’s our favorite way to work.”
Adds her husband, Jeromy: “The key is trust. We piece it together. We understand each other. We play off each other and trust that it will all happen.”
Wayne Bryan, producing artistic director for MTWichita, adds that the beauty of their teamwork is that the cast is not pulled in different directions by artistic differences between the director and choreographer. “There’s no shortage of ideas, but they work it all out at home. They are like great parents for the cast.”
Lyndy Smith eschews the title of either director or choreographer, preferring instead to be known as a “storyteller.” And Jeromy, who candidly admits “I came to theater to dance” (he performed in national tours of “42nd Street” and “Swing”), concurs that “In the end, it all comes back to storytelling. As the director, you see the big picture.”
While the show is meant to be family-friendly fun, Lyndy Smith also notes there is a message for young audiences to take home.
“The road of life is never straight or easy. There are many bumps along the way. What’s important is how you cope with it,” she says. “The message is that, no matter what you dream, if you work hard, persevere and have faith, then anything can happen.”