Not just any dream will do

Newlyweds Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young talk Joseph

By Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

Photo: Daniel A. Swalec

More than 40 years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber created what would become one of the most beloved musical theatre pieces to hit Broadway. With lyrics by Tim Rice, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tells the biblical story of Joseph and his journey to becoming Israel’s favorite son. With new direction and choreography from Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler, whose visual style incorporates tremendous movement, Joseph is attracting a new generation of fans. The U.S. tour kicked off earlier this year and will be performed at Dayton’s Schuster Center from Oct. 21-26.

This is not just your grandma’s Joseph. This is also your mom’s, daughter’s, great-grandpa’s, Uncle Luis’s and the neighbor lady’s Joseph. It holds wonders for everyone. While longtime fans will enjoy traditional favorites like “Those Canaan Days” and “Any Dream Will Do,” the younger generation will find theatrical kindred spirits in the chuck-wearing, MacBook-toting, slang-slinging ensemble as they bop their way through the story of Joseph and his 11 brothers using hip-hop, pop, rock and country-western as their musical vehicles. Throw in a little green-eyed jealousy, a snappy coat, the horrors of slavery and a bastion of divination and you’ve got all the components for an epic tale of self-discovery and redemption.

Featured in this production are Broadway and television stars Ace Young as Joseph and Diana DeGarmo as The Narrator. Following Young’s surprise proposal to DeGarmo during the season 11 finale broadcast of American Idol, the couple wed in June 2013 and began the U.S. tour of Joseph this past March. In anticipation of Joseph’s weeklong run in Dayton, the newlyweds took time to speak with Dayton City Paper about life on the road and on stage.

Has this been like an extended honeymoon for the two of you?

It basically is. It’s such a unique opportunity, in any world but especially the musical theatre world, to get to work together and to be on tour together. It was such a great opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up. And, you know, people joke, they say that the first year is the hardest, and it’s not been too bad! So if this is the hardest part, we should be good from here. – Diana DeGarmo

Many, many more great years to come.

We’re hoping so! – DD

I’ve heard you two like to keep busy. Tell me a little about the projects you have going on.

We’re creative multi-taskers. We’re always writing music for ourselves. We’re always being creative, one way or another. And if it’s not an opportunity for television or film, then we’re locking into theatre and having a blast doing it. It’s interesting doing theatre in comparison to television because in theatre you don’t get another take. So you have two to however many thousand in front of you and you’re doing a live stream movie in front of everybody with a full orchestra playing, with people running lights and cues and everything going off as timing together. It’s really a magical thing to make a real theatre piece like Joseph happen. – Ace Young

No pressure.

We enjoy the challenge. – AY

Also, on tour we made an EP. It’s called Young & Free. So people may come to the show to see Ace and Diana, when they leave they can take a little taste of us home, of our music. – DD

People love Joseph, but they also really love the two of you.

We’re really fortunate. We feel like we’ve been able to bring some Idol fans over into the musical theatre world. It has also introduced musical theatre fans to the talent of other Idols. I mean, it’s a really great group of people, and we can do more than just sing. – DD

you both have had Joseph in your lives for a long time. Ace, you going to see a production with your grandfather when you first moved to L.A., and Diana, when you were in the children’s choir. What is different or new about this production?

Andy Blankenbuehler. He’s a true visionary… We like to think of him as our Joseph. He has really pushed the limits of what we can create on stage with the production of 2014 and 2015. We’re doing things on stage, production-wise, that we couldn’t do even three years ago. It’s really amazing to see the creative aspects of Andy Blankenbuehler. He’s a Tony award winner for a reason. He really brought this to life, and he did it the right way. He went to Andrew Lloyd Webber and he asked for his blessing and then he also asked for his approval for certain things, and Andrew gave him every approval that he asked for. He really is giving the people that have loved Joseph for 30 years, he’s giving them what they love, and he’s also giving newcomers, children and people who are new to musical theatre, really a vibrant, interactive, very, very active show. – AY

We’re very fortunate to be around for this exciting era in musical theatre. Diana, as a performer in the children’s choir, you idolized The Narrator.

I did. I lucked out, already knowing most of the words by the time I got this job. Ace said he learned a few colors that he didn’t even know existed. He’s like, “I knew red and blue and green and that was about it.” – DD

What is azure? – AY

“What is this azure color we keep speaking of?” Having a part in the show for almost my entire life, it is funny how the universe brings you back around full circle. To be in a role that I have idolized for so long, it’s a blessing. I love what I do. I love that I get to interact with the audience. I love that I get to literally and figuratively be in your world and in this story.

And our cast and crew, we really are a family, and I think when you see the show, people feel that from us. We’re not just a bunch of people out in the middle of the road slapping together something and just trying to get by. We genuinely have a good time.

Andy really focused on making sure that each of the brothers had their own personality, had their own thoughts, their own views. So when you come to the show, you’re not just seeing a group of guys on stage. He made sure that Ace had his own portrayal of who he believes that Joseph is. Ace is the youngest of five boys, so he has his own idea of brother camaraderie and things like that. And then he let me take on The Narrator as my own self, which I think is fun.

There were no set rules that we had to follow, and that was exciting, one of the many reasons why we wanted to do this, let alone doing it together. We got to make this production our own, and you really feel that when you see the show. We feel it as a company. It’s something we’re all very proud of to show off every night. – DD

Eight shows a week for months and months. Does the fact that you are able to take this and make it your own help keep it from being a grind?

Most definitely. And traveling helps, too, because we get to see new faces. There have been a couple theatres that have been open and outside where there were 6,000 people in front of you and you’re starting as the sun is going down. It’s totally a different feel than a lot of things that we’ve done, even on Broadway.

And it can be a grind. What you have to do is you have to look at it like an athlete would, and treat it where you really take care of your body. You drink enough water. You make sure you stretch before every show because we’re doing a lot of athletic things on stage, and you have to take care of yourself while you’re doing it. We like to fill in a yoga class here and there just to change it up and keep our bodies limber. I always make sure I hit the weights all the time so I don’t just disappear on the stage and fade away. I lose a lot of water weight, and I want to make sure that I keep my strength. – AY

Yeah, it’s so not fair, but whatever. It’s good to remember that most people that are in the audience every night no matter where we’re playing have never seen this show, let alone this version before. And we’re getting to tell this story for the first time. This isn’t a regular Tuesday that we’re talking about in the story. This is a Tuesday that Joseph’s brothers decided to betray him, and we have to make sure to get that betrayal across. And I love telling that story. 

I feel like we’ve taken Joseph, this story that has been done every which way to Sunday over the last 30 years, and we’ve been able to really dig into the emotions, so you feel all the highs and you really feel the lows, and you’re taken on this emotional journey. I really remember that most people have not heard or seen this version. You invest yourself personally in each performance. – DD

The story of Joseph happened a long time ago in a land far away. Why do you feel people connect so much to this story?

There are many, many reasons, but I’ll start with the human element. We all can be kind of lost sometimes. And when you have that moment when you have to remember who you are, remember why we’re here, remember the dream. And that’s Joseph’s M.O. the entire story. He goes through a phase, like any person, he forgets who he is. And then he finds himself. And the connection with family and second chances, I think a lot of people can associate with. 

And it’s just a fun show! It’s got something for everyone. It really does. It’s a great show for kids. It’s a great show for the great-grandparents. A great show for people who have maybe not seen a musical theatre piece before. It’s not really long, so you don’t have to worry about sitting in the theatre for three hours. It’s a very upbeat, happy show. There are a lot of different types of music to keep people interested. And it’s just a really great night of entertainment. – DD

It sounds really accessible.

Yeah, it’s definitely a show you can bring everyone to. It’s literally a show you can bring your youngest sibling all the way up to your great-grandparents, and everyone will enjoy some part of the show. It’s not too often you see a show like that, and when we look out and see a whole family enjoying different bits and pieces of the show and afterwards coming over to the stage door and saying hello, it’s pretty amazing to see how infectious that energy is and how excited everybody is when they leave the theatre. – AY

So is this going to be people’s gateway drug to musical theatre?

Yeah! – DD

Most definitely. It’s the perfect opening show for people who have never seen a musical theatre piece because there’s no spoken dialogue. It’s really all music. You’re not sitting through a lot of monologues. It’s really a beautiful story, and it’s very easy to understand. We’ve had six-year-olds come up and tell us twists that we didn’t know they would catch, and they got it! – AY

The Victoria Theatre Association presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Oct. 21-26, with performances Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Schuster Center, 1 E. Second St. Tickets range from $25 to $97 and may be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 937.228.3630 or online at ticketcenterstage.com. For more information about the production, please visit josephthemusical.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at jenniferhanauerlumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com. To read more from Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin, visit her website at jennerlumpkin.com.

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About Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

View all posts by Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin is a writer and amateur cartographer living in Dayton, Ohio. She has been a member of PUSH (Professionals United for Sexual Health) since 2012 and is currently serving as Chair. She can be reached at JenniferHanauerLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com or through her website at jennerlumpkin.com.

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