Devon Theater: Small cast puts on big and bright production of ‘Joseph’

Updated 11/16/09 @ 7:04 p.m.: ‘Joseph’ will run as scheduled, but, as NEast Philly reported, the Devon has canceled the rest of its inaugural season.

Liz Filios didn’t miss a note when she took a step too quickly and had to shift her balance to keep from tripping in the second act.

That momentary misplaced footing may have been the only thing that went wrong for cast and crew of the Devon Theater‘s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Thursday evening during their opening night. Joseph is the second of a five-show inaugural season for the Devon.

The 14-member stage force, wh0 filled more than 40 roles in the bright and big musical that crisscrosses genres, won quick engagement from the crowd of some 350. That quick and light production comes despite losing Artistic Director Michael Pickering, who resigned unexpectedly last month just as rehearsals for ‘Joseph’ were beginning.

Before the performance, Pickering’s replacement, an ambitious 24-year-old star named Kim Reilly, who was already on staff in a marketing role that she is dually fulfilling now, addressed the crowd. Then she let her Philadelphia directorial debut fly.

If you go:

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” Nov. 12 to Dec. 13

“I was in the back [of the theater] being nervous,” Reilly, who co-directed the production with Matt Silva, said later to NEast Philly. “But I’m really happy with how this looks.”

How it looks is an exhaustive, 90-minute rendition of the British musical show written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice in the 1960s, offering a light-hearted take on the Old Testament’s “coat of many colors” story. Reilly’s version is in line with what the Devon is quickly making standard in its first season: big, bright, tight and family-friendly.

Filios, who lives in Philadelphia and fills the narrator role, was sterling the night through, with a lit smile and a voice that might make you share a look with whoever is sitting next to you. Delaware native and Villanova University graduate Matthew Morley Rusk plays a crisp and capable Joseph, whose father Jacob — played memorably and humorously by South Philadelphia’s versatile Jason Russell — gives him a magnificent coat to show how special he thinks Joseph is.

Newton Buchanan plays big with his one solo of the night. Photo credit Kim Reilly, Devon Theater.
(Newton Buchanan plays big with his one solo of the night. Photo credit Kim Reilly, Devon Theater.)

Joseph’s 11 brothers — played by men and women who all fill multiple roles throughout the night — take issue with that treatment and, for anyone who knows the biblical story, do something about it. Look for standouts among them, including a fan-favorite “Benjamin Calypso” solo from Newton Buchanan.

Sunday school lessons aside, the tunes and colors, craftsmanship and story make Joseph another good stop for families and friends looking for a night out in the Northeast.

Nearby Grey Lodge, Tony’s and the Mayfair Diner, in addition to the Philadelphia Coca Cola Bottling Company, all helped to sponsor the production.

Of any lingering thoughts about what Pickering’s departure meant for the theater, Reilly said: “I think people come away from this knowing that the Devon is very much still alive and growing.”

Below meet the Devon’s new acting artistic director, Kim Reilly.

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