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Musical theater returns to Iroquois Amphitheater

Performers practice a choreographed dance number in a rehearsal space with lights hanging overhead
Think Tank
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is bringing musical theater to Iroquois Amphitheater, a longstanding tradition at the performance venue.

Live musicals have long been part of the offerings from Iroquois Amphitheater. That tradition continues with a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Both Randy Blevins and Beth Craig Hall of ACT Louisville Productions grew up watching musical theater at Iroquois Amphitheater in the summertime.

“That's kind of what our dream is, that this becomes a summer tradition again,” said Blevins, producer at ACT.

Musical theater is returning to the amphitheater this summer with ACT Louisville’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which will run June 14 through June 23.

In past years, ACT Louisville put on “The Sound of Music” and “The Wizard of Oz” at the amphitheater, but they took last summer off to help with a different show.

ACT founder and director Craig Hall said they were purposeful about choosing this summer’s production.

“I really wanted a strong ensemble piece,” Craig Hall said. “If you look at ‘Joseph [and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat],’ the majority of what goes on is ensemble heavy. The ensemble is really and truly the core, the heart of the show… if that part of the production isn't done well, the story falls flat.”

Putting on a show with a strong ensemble teaches ACT Louisville’s young actors that being a main character isn’t the end-all be-all in theater, according to Craig Hall

“Last year was interesting when we had some auditions, we had some kiddos who decided maybe not to be in the show because they weren't a lead role or didn't have a speaking role,” Craig Hall said. “We're about education. And we're about learning how to do it the right way.”

Welcoming children into the theater is one goal of bringing musical productions back to the amphitheater. Another is to strengthen the arts community space at Iroquois.

“We have a wide range of entertainment, but I will say that this is the most important thing that I feel we do every year, because it's an untapped opportunity that you can't get anywhere else,” said Michael Hallett, manager of Iroquois Amphitheater.

The amphitheater’s location within a public park also offers a more approachable venue compared to a big concert hall setting.

“It really is a magical space,” said Sydney Warner, one of the musical’s narrators. “It really is magical under the stars, like the whole atmosphere of it. It just feels very natural.”

As a mother of two herself, Warner said being in a space where stillness and silence aren’t as expected makes the amphitheater a more comfortable experience.

“I hope it really does draw that community, and you can go on a walk, you can play on the playground during intermission and come right back,” she said.

The cast and crew wants people from all walks of life to feel welcome at the performance.

Ja’Naye Flanagan plays in the ensemble and in the role of Potiphar’s wife, the woman who tries to seduce Joseph. Flanagan says members of her church are coming to see her in the musical.“A lot of times when people are not in their bubble, but used to like how they go about life, doing something like going to see a story told differently, that might make them uncomfortable or rub them the wrong way,” Flanagan said.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” follows the biblical story of Joseph as he was betrayed by his brother and enslaved. His brother’s jealousy stems in part from a multi-colored coat gifted to him by their father Jacob.

Flanagan said this production approaches the story in a way that’s respectful, and that people don’t need knowledge of the Bible to pick up the themes.

“This is just a story that everyone is familiar with. It's about forgiveness, it's about family,” Flanagan said. “It's about seeing that you have the potential to do anything.”

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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