Youth performers from Queen Creek, San Tan Valley and across the East Valley will take to the Mesa Arts Center stage Aug. 4-14 in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
The musical, which brings the Bible story of Jacob and his 12 sons to life, is produced by Limelight Performing Arts and kicks off the youth theater company’s 2022-23 season.
San Tan Valley’s Shayla Forero was only 7 the first time Limelight produced the show. The year was 2016, and the musical won a slew of honors including the National Youth Arts award for Outstanding Production. Six years later, Limelight is reprising the epic show.
Now 13, Forero, once a member of the Children’s Choir, is stepping into a much bigger role.
“I play the apple dancer, an amazing role that’s also very challenging,” she said.
The apple dancer represents a key moment in the story when famine has descended on Canaan and the brothers and their families are starving. When Forero enters the scene – eating an apple – the brothers each try to steal the precious fruit.
“This scene is one of my favorites in the musical,” said Marie South, who, along with Limelight’s artistic director, Emma England, is directing the show. “The music is tango, and the brothers take turns pairing up with Shayla, trying to take her apple while she holds it out of reach. It’s entertaining and very good dancing, but it also underscores the desperation the brothers are feeling at that time.”
Despite weighty themes like starvation and slavery, the production is upbeat, light-hearted, and full of comic relief. With lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, it features colorful characters and costumes, modern choreography and a range of music and dance styles – from French ballad and bubble-gum pop to a country-western hoedown and a pharaoh who sings Elvis.
“It’s colorful, hilarious and so much fun,” England said.
Beyond her apple dancer role in the “Canaan Days” scene, Forero is on stage throughout the show as a member of the ensemble.
Queen Creek’s Jordan Brent, 17, is part of the ensemble, as well. She also was cast as a featured dancer.
“I play many different roles throughout the show such as a wife, scarf dancer, a tree, corn and many more fun parts,” she said.
England added that unlike “most productions with a couple of leads who carry the story, ‘Joseph’ is an ensemble-driven show. Every performer in this cast has to be a true triple-threat because each one of them plays an important part in telling the story.”
Queen Creek’s Mackenzie Gilligan, 14, is enjoying her role – and meeting the challenge head-on.
“I’m in the ensemble, so I play multiple parts,” she said. “I am in almost every single dance number. The hardest part of the show for me is the dancing.”
The 90-minute production is demanding. Every word in the musical is sung, every scene is choreographed, and every performer plays a key part in bringing the story together.
Thirteen-year-old Preston South from Queen Creek plays Jacob, the butler and other ensemble roles.
“I like getting to be multiple characters in the show and I like how different the multiple roles are,” he said. “The hardest part for me is memorizing how my costume changes.”
Forero said the hardest part for her was all the things she had to remember.
“From all the dance moves to all the singing harmonies, it's a lot to do at once,” she said.
For Brent, it’s an opportunity to hone her craft and be part of a major production while also spending time with her castmates.
“I have always loved participating in Limelight shows,” she said. “The shows are spectacular, and I love meeting new people. Youth theater is a great way to meet new people and grow as a performer.”
No production of “Joseph” would be complete without a Children’s Choir. The group of youngsters pop in and out of the world and story of “Joseph,” singing along and adding new layers to every scene and song.
“The Children’s Choir is important because it shows the perspective of the show from a child,” said 11-year-old Audra South of Queen Creek. “We’re on stage singing and dancing for most of the musical and help people understand the Bible story.”
As opening night draws near, the cast is eagerly anticipating the audience’s response to their hard work.
“It is mind blowing that a few weeks ago we were learning the first moves for the opening number and now we are finishing up the show,” Brent said. “I also love watching each individual shine. Our cast is extremely talented, and this musical showcases all our amazing dancers and vocalists.”
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” features a cast of 50 East Valley performers ages 6-21. Tickets are $16 plus box office fees and are available at the Mesa Arts Center box office at MesaArtsCenter.com keyword “technicolor,” or by visiting ll-pa.org. Group discounts are available. The Mesa Arts Center is located at One East Main St. in Mesa.
“The cast’s hard work and incredible passion will be evident in the top-notch quality of this performance,” England said. “At the heart of this show is a powerful message of love and unity that will resonate with children and adults.”
Katy Springer is the marketing manager for Limelight Performing Arts.