Skip to main content

The City Journals

Motorcycle Gangs and Selfie Sticks: A Modern Twist on a Timeless Classic

Aug 10, 2015 11:57AM ● By Bryan Scott

One aspect of Taylorsville Art Council’s production was all the families that participated in the show together.

By Jessica Thompson 

Taylorsville - Joseph of Egypt might not know about Bruno Mars, motorcycles or Chick-fil-A, but with Wendy Smedshammer’s creativity, he does now. Her take on the classic musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was full of contemporary twists that kept you laughing while learning about this Bible story. Smedshammer, the musical director, said, “Joseph is a Utah favorite and is done by many communities. When the Taylorsville Art Council came to me and said we are doing Joseph, I thought, ‘What is something we can do to make this musical our own, unique and different from anyone else?’ So, I decided to give the musical a modern twist, one that the younger audience would enjoy.” 

Some of those refreshing changes were made to the 11 brothers of Joseph, and their wives. Smedshammer let each brother and his wife choose a theme for their costume and character. Some of those fun themes were: tourists with selfie sticks, artists from France, flappers from the 1920’ and Napoleon Dynamite.  Aubrielle Johnson, who played the part of Potiphar’s wife, said, “In a lot of productions of Joseph, a lot of the wives just blend in the background and become more like props. So, I really loved that by giving each brother a theme, the wives got more of a role and character. Plus, it was fun to see what everyone came up with.” Other exciting alterations were made to the scene called “Those Canaan Days,” Where a Chick-fil-A tent was brought out on stage and the actors used styrofoam cups from the fast food restaurant as props and tossed them back in forth in synchronized rhythms. These were just a few of the clever changes Smedshammer created to help make Taylorsville’s musical unforgettable.  

Along with the witty changes to the script, there were incredible actors, dancers and singers. Choreographers Larissa Villars-Ferre and Natalie Adams came up with remarkable dance moves for the whole cast. During the “Pharaoh’s Dream Explained” song, Oliva Netzler, a senior at Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts and actor who played Pharaoh, busted out a moon walk, splits and modern hip hop moves, all while wearing his black shades. This dance scene, along with others, was full of difficult and technical dance moves that the actors made look easy. The dancing wasn’t the only thing on point. The two narrators Sara McDonald and Emily Leishman Roh, with leading man Keanu Netzler, had marvelous voices that added to quality of the performance. While McDonald was singing a powerful song about Pharaoh’s story, one audience member said out loud, “Wow! She has an incredible voice.” The local cast member’s talent captivated you into listening to this Bible story.  

One fun aspect of this production of Joseph was all the families that participated in the show together. Many children performed with their parents and siblings. Keanu Netzler, who played Joseph, got to sing and dance alongside his little brother, Oliva Netzler, who played the Pharaoh. Keanu Netzler said, “There is nothing I like to do more than to be with my family. My family will always come first and I am really grateful for the opportunity I have to be with my brother in this musical.” Other cast members got to sing and dance with their family members as well. McDonald got to spend hours rehearsing with her son, who played one of the brothers, and many other cast members had children in the chorus. “This musical is all about the importance of the family. Audience members can see this by watching the comradery the brothers have when they see what a gem they have in their younger brother,” said Smedshammer. What a better way to show the importance of family than to have the cast be full of family members.  

Taylorsville Art Council, director Wendy Smedshammer and the 70 cast members of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” created a beautiful, clever and entertaining rendition of the timeless musical that audience members will never forget.