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Out of Town

Toronto’s Joseph Wears its Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Energetically and Joyfully



I was really curious when I arrived at Mirvish’s Princess of Wales Theatre in Downtown Toronto to see a new production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Wondering what I would think. My only other viewing of this show was over the pandemic when Andrew Lloyd Webber gave us 48 hours to stream his Joseph on his YouTube channel: The Shows Must Go On for free, and what I found out, was that I really enjoyed the show, saying with all my heart, “go, go, go, Joseph“! It was a beautifully filmed version, expanded and adapted from the 1992 production starring Donny Osmond, and I had a blast engaging with this musical. I had heard about this production, but had very little knowledge of. So arriving at the theatre just before Christmas to see the North American premiere of Laurence Connor’s dynamic new production, I was ready and willing to be completely entertained.

The production first played at The Palladium in London, UK back in 2019, and some say it has eyes focused on a Broadway transfer, but I’m not so sure that it’s quite ready for that. It certainly is an entertaining jaunt, presenting the musical, with lyrics by Tim Rice (Chess) and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Jesus Christ Superstar), in a colorful festive manner, simple and somewhat catchy, having immediate appeal and adolescent charm. The song cycle, ushering forth enthusiastically from different pop genres, follows the optimistic and joyful Joseph, played lovingly by a very appealing and impressively voiced Jac Yarrow (BBC’s “In My Skin“), straight from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. His voice soars, beautiful and gently throughout the show, and never fails to emotionally engage. Lucky for us, he’s the core of this sometimes overly simple and repetitive production, and holds it all together with his presence.

Back in 2020, the video clip of Osmond and the glorious Maria Friedman as the Narrator singing “Any Dream Will Do“ in that streamed version was what initially drew me into the show, and after watching them perform it a few years back, I felt that the filmed version was a must-see event. It’s a completely disarming and charming number, one that won me over quickly and easily. “If you think it, want it, dream it, than it’s real” sings the Narrator, lovingly portrayed in this new production by the talented Vanessa Fisher (NT’s Follies), and I was hooked just the same. I couldn’t help but feel that this “coat of many colors” which tells “the tale of a dreamer, like you“ might just be the ticket I needed to lift up my holiday spirit and take me on a similar enjoyable journey.

Vanessa Fisher in Mirvish’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Photo courtesy of Mirvish Prod.

The leader of the pack in this joyful production, playfully directed by Laurence Connor (25th Anniversary Production of Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall), is the feisty Narrator, who fills more shoes and jackets in this reformation than one can imagine. She starts it all going with a bunch of playful children gathering around for story time. They crowd around Fisher, sitting up tall on colorful boxes as she pulls us and them in as she starts to sing about “a boy whose dreams came true.” It’s touching and sweet, and lovingly brings forth the anthem of the show, “Any Dream Will Do” which springs forward against a backdrop of colorful fabric sewn together to shed light on Joseph and his story of struggle and faith.

The large family photo of father Jacob, played by the fake-beard-atttached Fisher, isn’t as mutually loving as he should have been. His other sons, all eleven of them, aren’t as pleased with Joseph as their father is. And when Jacob gives his favorite son, Joseph, that cloak of many colors, their goat, and ire, is got, and bad things happen to good people when jealousy reigns. They shove and sell Joseph off, far away from his loving father and not-so-loving familial male siblings. And that is just the beginning of Joseph’s story and sorrows.

One spectacular musical number after another, choreographed with enthusiasm by Joann M. Hunter (Webber’s West End Cinderella), Joseph’s optimism never seems to fade, finding himself imprisoned but never, it seems, without hope. The pop song flourishes find their mark, time after time, once with a spectacular tap number with Fisher’s Narrator taking center stage. Fisher and Yarrow, both who first performed these roles in the original 2019 production of Joseph at The London Palladium really hold this piece together in their solid talented grip. They fill those gigantic shoes repeatedly, elevating the production higher than what it might deserve. Their voices sing true, and their energy is undeniable, taking the simple tale forward with a flourish of song and dance.

Jac Yarrow in Mirvish’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Photo courtesy of Mirvish Prod.

This was the first Lloyd Webber and Rice musical that was actually performed publicly (their first collaboration, The Likes of Us, was written in 1965, but not performed until 2005). And in its innocence, the beauty of this fun simple piece of musical theatre, and the lessons learned, are easily viewable and accessible, regardless of age. Locked up in a cell, caged (and looking pretty darn good), Yarrow’s Joseph finds the optimism to lovingly sing his sad pretty song beautifully. “Go, go, go, Joseph“, is what is he is cheered on by his fellow man, as he gently uses his ability to interpret dreams as his get-out-of-jail card, with or without his Dreamcoat. Good fortune comes a-knocking once again in the form of the Butler, joyfully played by by one of those young kids from the reading circle, and he rises up once again.

Then it’s a big time Welcome to Fabulous Egypt, when the sexy and commanding Tosh Wanogho Maud (West End’s The Drifters Girl; Dreamgirls) muscles his way in with that Elvis swagger and sizzle as the mighty Pharaoh. You better get down on your knees with joy. He’s experiencing a run of crazy dreams, and Joseph is asked to interpret as Maud delivers, quite gloriously, the “all shook up” song and big dance number that rocks forth the seven hip-swiveling pleasures. It’ll “flip your lid“, this number, particularly with Maud’s hot deliciousness and impressive visuals. The crazy dream’s meaning once again is the thing that saves Joseph, elevating his luck up and beyond once again, but this time to the heights of what that first dreamt at the beginning of this fun and sweet-natured musical tale was all about.

Tosh Wanogho Maud (center) and the cost of Mirvish’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Photo courtesy of Mirvish Prod.

We read the book, and you come out on top“, the show tells us and him once again, and thanks to the eleven brothers’ newly found honesty and honor when things look bad for their sweet angelic brother Benjamin, the tide is turned and all is forgiven. The show as a whole has only a few spoken lines of dialogue and is almost entirely sung-through with glee, like a silly Magic Flute without all that messy opera to alienate the kids. The family-friendly story is graced with familiar and satisfying themes anchored by catchy music and lovely performances. First presented in 1968 as a 15-minute “pop cantata” at Colet Court School in London and recorded in an expanded form by Decca Records in 1969, the musical was only embraced after the success of Jesus Christ Superstar, the next Webber and Rice conceptual biblical piece. And the rest is theatrical history.

Only then was Joseph given the chance to secure its place through a number of staged amateur productions in the US starting in 1970. In 1972, it was given a professional veneer as a 35-minute musical at the Edinburgh International Festival by the Young Vic Theatre Company, directed by Frank Dunlop, paired with another, more talk heavy biblical tale. And even as it was undergoing major modifications and expansions, the musical premiered in the West End. Finally,  Joseph was presented in its modern longer form at the Haymarket Theatre in Leicester several times through 1978, pretty much never looking back. The musical was brought over to Broadway in 1982, garnering several major award nominations, just like it did every time it has been revived in the West End, which is many.

Vanessa Fisher in Mirvish’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Photo courtesy of Mirvish Prod.

The show as a whole doesn’t actually seem ready to return to the New York City. It feels somewhat old and stereotypical even in its new and fresh styling. It resembles more a pared-down touring show rather than a fully fleshed-out modernized production that could capture the hearts of Broadway. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, but some work needs to be done to establish it more, and maybe get rid of some stereotypical representations. The set and costumes are dutifully playful, colorful, and somewhat non-progressively generic, designed by Morgan Large (Shaftesbury Theatre’s Flashdance), with a somewhat solid sound by Gareth Owen (Broadway/West End’s Come From Away), and a pretty spectacular lighting design by Ben Cracknell (Garrick’s The Drifters Girl). It carries a simple formula, that climaxes pretty spectacularly with the “Song of the King” Vegas number in Act Two. It repeatedly (maybe one too many times) rocks out with large gold statues playing electric guitars as female backup singers strike a Vegas showgirl pose in gold lame. I only wish I could hear and understand the lyrics better during all of this, and maybe a few other numbers.

Alongside the talented crew of actors playing numerous parts, dancing their feet off throughout, the idea of having the young children at the storytelling play some of Jacob’s sons and some other adult characters does the piece good, engaging us on that youthful level that lovingly works with the overall message and theme. With musical supervising and conducting done by John Rigby (London’s School of Rock), the orchestrations of John Cameron (Les Misérables; 1979-2006) fill the space with ease. The show as a whole delivers the differing song styles strong and true, finding its way to the end of the tale joyfully. This production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat keeps on trucking forward, unapologetically with an optimism that is woven neatly into the story. In closing, it flies through a mega-mix of basically the whole show and every number once again, urging the crowd to jump to their feet and dance along with the cast. The moment feels a bit forced (or is that just me?), and overly long and repetitive, but one can’t help being charmed by the talent and their enthusiasm for the piece. It’s a pure, simple pleasure, matching the popcorn sold at intermission and festive energy that fills the theatre. It’s not quite Broadway ready yet, but it also doesn’t feel too far away from the required upgrade for it to be a success. With a bit more tweaking, this Joseph is a go, go, go.

Vanessa Fisher (center) with Jac Yarrow on the right and the cast of Mirvish’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto, Canada. Photo courtesy of Mirvish Prod.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to


The Olivier Awards Return



Celebrate the very best in British theatre in a star-studded evening as the Olivier Awards return to the Royal Albert Hall on April 2nd.

Three-time Olivier Award nominee & Primetime Emmy winner, Hannah Waddingham will be hosting the awards for the first time.

The event will feature performances from all of the Best New Musical nominees, including The Band’s Visit, Standing At The Sky’s Edge, Sylvia and Tammy Faye. Also performing will be Oklahoma! and Sister Act, both nominated for the Best Musical Revival award, as well as Disney’s Newsies, which has been nominated for Matt Cole’s choreography.

The multi-Olivier Award winner The Book of Mormon, will be performing to mark its ten-year anniversary in the West End. Additionally, special award winner Arlene Philips will be honored with a tribute from the cast of Grease.

The ceremony will be broadcast live on Magic Radio from 6pm with Ruthie Henshall and Alice Arnold hosting.

The highlights program will also be aired on ITV1 and ITVX at 10:15 pm in the UK and via Official London Theatre’s YouTube channel elsewhere.

And the nominees are:

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Out of Town

The Unpacking of the First Métis Man of Odesa, An Interview




Punctuate! Theatre is unpacking a love story. A love story about a couple. A love story about Ukraine. And a love story against an unbelievably complicated backdrop. Starting at The Theatre Centre in Toronto, the company is ushering forth the world premiere of First Métis Man of Odesa before it spins itself out on stages across Canada. Spanning continents and set against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Métis playwright and Punctuate! Artistic Director, Matthew MacKenzie (Dora Award-winning playwright for Bears, After the Fire, The Particulars) joins forces with his wife, the award-winning Ukrainian actress Mariya Khomutova (Odesa Film Festival Grand Prix – The Golden Duke award-winner NONNATwo People), to tell the story of their COVID courtship and share an intimate perspective on the personal impacts of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Matthew MacKenzie and Mariya Khomutova.

Drawn from their real-life love story, a story that is ultimately still unfolding to this very day, First Métis Man of Odesa unpacks the journey of Matt and Masha’s love that spans continents where distance and conflicts can’t tame their passionate connection. After meeting on a theatre research trip in Kyiv, a spark is struck, and a romance between a Métis Playwright and a Ukrainian artist is ignited, taking them from the beaches of the Black Sea to the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, within the onset of a global pandemic, the eruption of a brutal war, but also the many joyous moments that this union begets, including marriage and the birth of their son.

During the height of the lockdown in 2021, an initial version of this piece was presented as a radio play at Factory Theatre, written by MacKenzie and directed by Nina Lee Aquino. This March, First Métis Man of Odesa, as directed by Lianna Makuch (Pyretic Productions/Punctuate!’s Barvinok), makes its stage debut, offering a compelling continuation of the initial story told in that first radio play. The couple, Matthew MacKenzie and his wife, Mariya Khomutova, sat down with Frontmezzjunkies and thankfully answered a few questions about their incredible journey from that first love-struck connection to its World Premiere at The Theatre Centre in Toronto.

Tell me, how you decided to embark on telling your own story and what the beginning of this creative process looked like for you two?

Initially, Matt wrote an audio play for Factory Theatre about our romance, then getting married and having their son during the pandemic.  The plan had been to expand the piece for the stage, a plan that took on much urgency after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Both the pandemic and war have a deeply dehumanizing effect, so our hope in telling our love story is to share the human side of these major world events; a human side that headlines and news clips can’t fully capture.

What aspect of your character, or your involvement with/creation of this play resonates the most powerfully inside you?

For both of us, the opportunity to share all the joy, humour, anger, and frustration we’ve experienced in the past few years is a really therapeutic process.  Many of our friends and family only know snippets of what we’ve been through, so the opportunity to tell our story across the country is one we are deeply grateful for.

The phrase “you don’t know what someone is carrying with them” has really hit home over the past couple of years, as we have had to contend with some pretty epic challenges as a couple and as individuals.

Tell me a bit about what it is like to bring your character to the stage? What does mean to you to be telling this story?

We play ourselves in the play, but we very much play versions of ourselves in the play.  We had to mine conflict between us out of a few outbursts, as there haven’t actually been a lot of [conflicts] in our relationship so that we could bring the drama of what we are going through to the fore.

Challenges of playing ourselves have included the fact that [Matt] is not a trained actor, while Mariya is. Mariya though comes from a theatre tradition that was almost entirely focused on the classics, so playing herself in a play based on her life is definitely a new and challenging experience!

Tell me a bit more about your development process? Was there a typical ‘first read’ or was it different, given your own story inspired the work…

We were able to conduct several development workshops over a period of six months.  There was no shortage of content that we could derive from our lives, so the challenge was determining what to keep and what to let fall away. Even after our first read, we cut 15 pages from our rehearsal draft.  Events in our lives and in Ukraine will no doubt continue to necessitate the evolution of our script.

What’s been the most challenging part of this process for you?

For Mariya, it was buying into the idea (that is quite a common one in Canada) that a play about someone’s real life can be art.  Seeing Hailey Gillis’s My Ex-boyfriend Yard Sale, really helped her believe this was possible.

For Matt, it met the challenge of performing for the first time in ten years.  The last time he performed, he made his friends promise they would never let him perform again, but all agreed it didn’t make much sense for anyone else to play him in this piece.

The most rewarding?

Having already performed several shows in Kamloops, the most rewarding part of this process is sharing this story with refugees from Ukraine.  Their responses have been incredible and have really encouraged us to share our story with as many people as possible.

What do you want the audience to get from this play, and from your character?

We want the audience to join us as we relive our sweeping love story, from Odesa to Toronto.  We want the audience to see the human side of the conflict in Ukraine.  And we want the audience to leave the theatre with the hope that love can and will conquer all.

First Métis Man of Odesa is in Toronto for its world premiere run at the Franco Boni Theatre @ The Theatre Centre from March 30 – April 8, 2023 (opening March 31). Following the world premiere in Toronto, First Métis Man of Odesa will appear at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, The Cultch in Vancouver, and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg. For information and tickets, please visit

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Florence Welch, Martyna Majok, Rachel Chavkin and More On New Musical Gatsby Coming To A.R.T



Florence Welch Photo by De Wilde

Producers Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, Jordan Roth, and American Repertory Theater(A.R.T.) at Harvard University announced today that Gatsby, a brand-new musical stage adaptation of the legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, will make its highly anticipated World Premiere at A.R.T. in 2024, and will be directed by Tony Award® winner Rachel Chavkin and choreographed by Tony Award winner Sonya Tayeh.

Rachel Chavkin Photo Credit Erik Tanner

Gatsby will feature music by Florence Welch, the Grammy Award-nominated international rock star of Florence + the Machine and Thomas Bartlett, the Oscar and Grammy Award nominee, with lyrics by Ms. Welch, and a book by Pulitzer Prize® winner Martyna Majok.

Martyna Majok by Josiah Bania

Gatsby will be produced at American Repertory Theater by special arrangement with Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, and Jordan Roth, in association with Robert Fox. Hannah Giannoulis serves as co-producer.

Sonya Tayeh

American Repertory Theater (Diane Paulus, Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director; Kelvin Dinkins, Jr., Executive Director) at Harvard University produces groundbreaking work to catalyze dialogue and transformation. Tony Award-winning and nominated productions include Jagged Little PillWaitressNatasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812; All the Way; The Glass Menagerie; Pippin; Once; and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Its revival of 1776, a co-production with Roundabout Theatre Company, is currently touring nationally. Learn more at

Thomas Bartlett Photo Credit York Tillyer

Additional Gatsby news will be announced soon.

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