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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

By Sydney Meyer
On October 28, 2017

Photo By: Ashley Alonzo

You’ve probably heard the story. But have you heard it like this?

After the coat of many colors becomes technicolored and Pharaoh gets an Elvis-style makeover, the biblical story of Joseph takes on a whole new perspective. Using various musical styles like rock ’n’ roll and country, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” creates a Biblical-sized impact.

“It’s an incredibly fun show,” director John Holzhüter says. “It’s got a little bit of rock ’n’ roll; it’s got a little bit of country; it’s got a little bit of schmaltz; it has some really talented student performers; and … the Pharaoh, who’s another student here, I think is actually going to be Elvis and on a skateboard.”

Ottawa University’s theatre program is putting on the production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” this October 27-29. This production is a take on the classic “Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors,” and combines different music styles and modern ideas. After being sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph must overcome a variety of obstacles to eventually become the second most powerful man in Egypt. With the use of lights, sound and creative acting, the story is brought to life on the stage.

Holzhüter is directing the play this fall and also serves as the University’s chaplain overseeing many programs within the school. As he puts it, he becomes the coordinator of everything that doesn’t have a “home, a brother or a shepherd.” He cites theatre as the strangest addition to his range of organizations, although he does have a “great love for theatre.”

Growing up as a missionary kid, Holzhüter was never in one place for long. He went to high school in Overbrook, a town in the Ottawa area. He attended college in London before he and his wife fell in love with a house in Ottawa, about a block from the university. He worked as a therapist in Topeka before receiving the opportunity to work within a program designed to minister to ministers. Intrigued by the opportunity to work with Roger Freidrickson, the man the OU chapel was named after, Holzhüter accepted a teaching position at OU.

Holzhüter decided to produce the performance “Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors” due to its faith foundation, its potential to connect with students and its ability to entertain.

“This is a thing that is really well-suited for the talent we have here,” Holzhüter says.

Joseph, the lead, is played by OU student John Hawks. Hawks is from Parsons, Kansas, and has been acting since his senior year of high school. After helping operate the dragon in his school’s production of “Shrek,” John was introduced to the theatre culture and hasn’t looked back.

“I fell in love with working with the people and being a part of something you work, and work and work on, and then it comes into fruition,” he says. 

Acting in a play is a huge time commitment, and requires much more immersion than just learning the lines. According to Hawks, the best way to get into character is knowing the backstory of the character. This includes having a made-up story about where the character was before the scene, which creates a feeling of continuity. Knowing the character’s intentions and reasoning behind emotion is also important to be able to feel the emotion.

The character of Joseph has many dimensions. Throughout the play, Joseph must overcome many obstacles, including being wrongfully accused of a crime, thrown in prison and eventually elevated to a position of importance and leadership.

“He really emerges a different person from where he started at the beginning of it,” Hawks says.

In fact, Hawks’s favorite aspect of Joseph’s character is the place where he started: as a “doe-eyed, dumbfounded kid.”

The pressure of a fast-approaching deadline has been no deterrent. Both Hawks and Holzhüter have high hopes for this performance. This production strays from the typical college production, as Holzhüter is using more of a repertoire theater approach, which means the rehearsals and the plays have had a shorter time to come together -- about two months. Despite this abbreviated length of time, Hawks says he thinks the play is developing quite nicely, due to the dedication of the crew and the actors.

“It’s running pretty swimmingly,” he says. “As far as building the set and the lighting design, the people who are doing that are wizards.”

The show will take place at 7 p.m. on Oct. 27 and 28, and at 3 p.m. on Oct. 29.

There are other opportunities for becoming involved in theatre, and many reasons to, as well. If you’re interested, but haven’t done much theatre in the past, Hawks says that’s not a problem -- it’s a great atmosphere. He says theatre people would be more than happy to help, so there’s no reason to be shy. 

Holzhüter says much the same, providing many reasons to become involved in future productions.

“There are a lot of ways you can bring light to a rather dark or dim world,” Holzhüter says. “I think theatre is one of them. I think arts in general are there. ... It’s an amazing thing to join with people doing good.”

If you’re interested in upcoming productions, contact Holzhüter at john.holzhuter@ottawa.edu, or talk to any member of the theatre group.

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