‘Joseph’ Tour Members Are Rainbow Road Warriors


Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat reconvenes in Philadelphia this weekend to prepare for its six-night run at the Merriam Theatre Dec. 29-Jan. 3.

When the national touring company of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat reconvenes in Philadelphia this weekend to prepare for its six-night run at the Merriam Theatre Dec. 29-Jan. 3, it will be the continuation of a different dream for three members of the cast. Not only are Yosef (Joseph) Chaikin, Rachel Perlman and Jacob Sharf all Jewish, they’re thrilled to play a part in recreating a story that’s so much a part of their heritage.
“Of course the show reminds me of growing up and hearing the stories in Hebrew school and going to local synagogue performances,” said 28-year-old feature dancer Perlman, a native of Cape Cod, who’s been playing a small role in 42nd Street down in Roanoke, Va., while the tour has been on hiatus since Nov. 1. “But I think I’ve known forever I wanted to perform.”
So did Chaikin, who grew up the son of classic Russian folklore dancers in the town of Karmiel, outside Haifa. For obvious reasons, though, the show, which he first saw in London’s West End, hits home for him. “Kids in Israel loved to make fun of me,” said the 24-year-old Chaikin, who, like Perlman, is part of the ensemble. “Because my name is Joseph, there were references all the time. But I love the story. I felt a connection to the story because of its biblical aspect. There’s so many values you can learn from the show and be inspired by.”
For Sharf, who plays Reuben, the oldest of Jacob’s 12 sons, the one who devises the plot to get rid of Joseph — whom he considers Jacob’s favorite — by selling him as a slave but telling his father Joseph has been killed, the story evokes a range of emotions.
“Growing up with these parables, there’s something special about it being so archaic and yet having a connection,” said the 25-year-old Sharf, who, unlike his Jewish compatriots, has his own song and gets to take a bow at the end. “Having a role in the culture I grew up in, there’s a certain affinity going back to that.
“I definitely have a certain learning interest, that longing to know more about it.”
But there’s not much time for history lessons when you’re on a national tour like this. Philadelphia is very much the exception to the rule for the group, which traverses the country and dips into Canada during a brutal touring schedule.
“For us, that’s a long run,” laughed Perlman, who, like most of the cast, lives in New York and is looking forward to seeing family and friends come down during their time here. “It’s a treat to be playing six nights in one place. It’s mostly one-nighters. Sometimes, we stop for a lunch break and ask the waitress, ‘What state are we in?’ ”
Following Philly, the upcoming itinerary for the cast includes: Schenectady, N.Y., Kitchener and London, Ontario, Wabash, Ind., Flint, Mich., Rockford, Ill., and Columbia, S.C. —all between Jan. 4 and Jan. 13. Later, they’ll trek from Fresno, Calif., to Reno, Nev., Cheyenne, Wyo., Odessa, Tex., El Paso, Tex., and Fort Collins, Colo., within a 15-day span.
So much for the glamorous life of doing a Broadway musical when you’re way off-Broadway. “Unfortunately, it is unusual to be in a hotel for more than a day,” lamented Sharf, who grew up in Tampa, though his mother was originally from the Philadelphia area. “We’ll wake up early most mornings, then hop on the bus until we get to the next city. We unpack, then maybe have two hours to relax before we have to head to the theater. After we do the show, we get back on the bus, get some sleep and repeat it the next day. Sometimes the bus rides can be as long as 8-9 hours.”
Despite the hassles, this is an opportunity they’re all cherishing. “This is my first job out of school, so I’m blessed to join the national tour,” said Chaikin, a graduate of Julliard, who recently returned from a visit home. “I’m still learning and adapting and figuring out what this industry is about and how it works. I think in the beginning of the process, the fact we were all Jewish brought us together. But when you’re on the road for two months and live together on the bus and in the hotels you bond on various levels.”
“Yossi [Chaikin] and I have a cool connection,” said Perlman, who made her first trip to Israel through Birthright in 2013. “It’s nice to speak about tradition there and relate to my experience. The land itself was so much more beautiful than I imagined. It felt special to be there; like a home to me. Someday, I’d love to go back.”
For now, though, she and the rest are too busy with their careers. As for the play itself, even though the original production dates back to 1970 — long before any of the trio were born — it’s still relevant today.
“I think the biggest surprise when you see the show is, as much as it is a biblical story, it’s as contemporary as a musical can get,” said Chaikin, who communicates with his family back home — in one way or another — at least a few times a week. “The music, the choreography and the way the story is being told can relate to kids and adults all the same. It doesn’t matter how many times you see it, you always learn new lessons and get emotions on a different level.”
Sharf, who says he refreshed himself on his part virtually every day throughout the break, sees a different side. “For me, the show is about character and how we view that,” he explained. “Whether it’s jealousy or doing what you think is best for your family. If you do what you know is right and throw your heart into that, you’ll triumph. If you push yourself and have that need, you will achieve what you set out to do and be inspired by that. In the end it makes the world a better place.”
That gives the play a universal message. “This show brings out lots of sides of the story,” said Perlman, whose aunt first took her to see the show as a little girl, before her parents got her the DVD. “The underlying message is believing in your dream and the ability in yourself to achieve them. It’s nice to be connected a show like that.”
Contact: jmarks@jewishexponent.com 215-832-0729


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