“Way, way back, many centuries ago . . .” – or so it seems. It was actually way, way back, only a few months ago, when we lived in a different world. A world in which live theater performances were the norm and, well, whoever heard of Zoom? It is in this reconfigured world that virtual performances were born and currently evolving. We are excited to announce a collaboration between Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center (PJTC) and the Cultural Arts Program of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys (Jewish Federation of SGPV) – a virtual performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This version of Joseph is a tour de force, involving 44 singers and dancers, from several synagogues spanning the greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, a wonderful way to bring performers of many generations together—virtually, of course.
As this pandemic has progressed, our society is still practicing social distancing, large gatherings are still banned, and many venues, including theaters, remain closed. Other challenges have arisen, specifically regarding youth programming. Home schooling and virtual summer programs have replaced classrooms and summer camps. Of course, every challenge presents an opportunity. Melissa Levy, Youth Programming and United Synagogue Youth (USY) director at PJTC, conceived the idea of involving our community youth—and adults—in a virtual production of Joseph. This fun and entertaining musical is the story of a dreamer, someone who remains positive in the midst of trials and tribulations. Sold into slavery by his brothers, seemingly despairing as he sings “Close every door to me,” yet he realizes that there is still purpose to his life, even if he is uncertain of what that is. This musical—and message—is a perfect choice for this time, as we all navigate the uncertainty of our times and search for meaning.
Melissa approached Cantor Judy Sofer to direct the show and create a joint project with the Jewish Federation of SGPV’s JFed Players. Sofer explains, “Melissa and I had spoken in the past about doing a project together. This was the perfect opportunity to highlight the talented youth in the community and give adults a chance to join in—without having to leave their houses. With Melissa as co-director and choreographer, I took on the dual roles of director and music director. We are lucky to have so many talented community members involved as cast and others assisting us in the various technical aspects of putting this show online.” Along with the JFed Players and those from PJTC, there are cast members from Temple Beth David in Temple City and Temple Beth Israel, Pomona, and others from outside the boundaries of our Jewish Federation—an all-encompassing community experience.
Rehearsing live is not possible during this time of COVID-19, necessitating virtual rehearsals through Zoom. Unlike other productions, the cast will not meet in person, but only on computer screens; they will be working together—separately—to bring this fun musical to life. This means that each person must rehearse individually and come to the Zoom meetings prepared to sing and learn some choreography. For the show to come together, each performer will record their part and send it along to be incorporated into the whole show. Imagine this entire process with 44 people, finally coming together with a finished product in the end!
The trick to making this a successful project is our video and sound engineer, Brian Gordon. Brian, and his wife Edeena, have been working with the JFed Players for several years, building sets and making props. With the onset of COVID-19 and the quarantine, Brian decided to learn how to help us put everything online.
Plan to tune in for this unique and exciting virtual performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, specific details are forthcoming.
Lori McKenna is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.