With 'Joseph,' GHS theater students end season on ethereal note
If you go
What: Gresham High School Theatre Arts Department presents "Joseph and the the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
When: 7 p.m. May 9-10 and 16-18
Where: Mountainview Christian Church, 1890 N.E. Cleveland Ave., Gresham.
Tickets: $14 adults, $12 students and seniors, available at door or visit ghsdrama.ticketleap.com
Like most Gresham High School students, senior Joshua Barcroft has studied plenty of English, science, math, theater and other conventional subjects during his four years there. What's turned out to be one of his final assignments, however — learning to move and sing like Elvis Presley in his prime — falls decidedly outside the box of traditional curriculum.
That's indeed what was required by taking on the role of Pharoah in the upcoming GHS Performing Arts Department production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." If Barcroft had any reservations about swiveling his hips and passionately growling out songs before his classmates and parents, he got over it pretty quickly.
"It's such a fun character to play, taking on the role of Elvis Presley," he says. "I get to act as he did, every little leg movement he had, the way he talks, his voice — I get to be a part of that. I'm playing this almighty character who changes into this Elvis vibe. It's so much fun to perform, especially as the Pharoah."
Gresham High presents "Joseph," the 50-year-old musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice based on the Biblical story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis, in performances at 7 p.m. May 9-10 and 16-18 at Mountainview Christian Church, 1890 N.E. Cleveland Ave., Gresham. Tickets are $14 for adults, and $12 for students and seniors.
Synopses of "Joseph" describe the Pharaoh character as the most powerful man in Egypt who's considered a God on earth. In his dreams, Joseph elevates him to one of the highest positions in his government.
Barcroft's homework included studying oodles of YouTube footage devoted to the late King of Rock 'n Roll.
"Oh (I watched) tons!" he says. "The most I studied was (1957 movie) 'Jailhouse Rock'. I was watching it in slo-mo — every move and little dip of his legs. When I get to the end of (the production), I can go as all-out as I want. That's the best part of it, going all-out in the end. Everyone is in awe about it."
The performances take place at the church because major renovations are underway at Gresham High School, whose old auditorium is being replaced with a state-of-the-art theater.
For Sara Dempsey, Gresham High's theater arts director, the physical displacement — requiring most rehearsals to be held in the school's wrestling mat room — works to the show's advantage.
"I thought ("Joseph") was a really good story that showcased our students well," she says. "I thought it was appropriate for us to do a biblical story at a church."
Now in her 26th year with the theater department, Dempsey has been floored by the talent and charisma of her current performers, including the 36 cast members of "Joseph."
"These seniors are one of the strongest groups of seniors I've ever had: talent-wise, vocal-wise, acting, commitment, hard working," she says. "It's just an amazing group of kids."
The uplifting theme of "Joseph" mirrors what Dempsey sees in this group of seniors, who are inspired by the prospect of a new GHS theater even though they won't get to perform in it as students.
"The theme is following dreams and making dreams — like the brand-new auditorium — come true," she says. "All the songs really help us go in that direction and feel that message. It's an upbeat way to approach life right now."
After graduation, Barcroft, 18, plans to further his stage construction experience in a carpentry trade-school program. Now he beams with pride about his fellow theater students' accomplishments this season — under often-taxing circumstances.
"I'm really proud of our department, just because we've had to go through so many things: moving everything out, losing the auditorium, rehearsing in the cafeteria, moving to the mat room. It's been crazy," he says. "One of our main props people, an adult, recently passed away. He was the one who spiced up everything.
"We haven't been able to do as many shows," Barcroft continues, "but we've been able to get through it. No matter what hardships we've had, we've been able to pull together as a department and be able to get through everything together."