Joseph Lights Up the Stage

by Rasheite Radcliff

The month of December, as frosted as it may be, brings warm holiday memories and comforting traditions. For central Illinois, one tradition is very well known and appreciated—a remarkable evening at Eastlight Theatre. The theatre was established by the City of East Peoria, the Fon du Lac Park District and East Peoria High School. These three entities united to improve the quality of life, provide new means of artistic programming and offer students further drama opportunities.

Eastlight Theatre has come a long way since its first production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1991. From the Eastlight Players, who present children’s shows, and Youthlight, with its productions cast with young performers, to the Penguin Project, which provides a theatre experience for young artists with disabilities, Eastlight has evolved into a major force in the community, with so much to offer the entire family.

As Eastlight expands, it has not forgotten its first love. This is the 18th blockbuster year for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, one of the first plays written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Joseph’s story is a familiar biblical story about a boy with 11 jealous brothers who will do anything to get back at him for being the favorite son. Joseph endures a series of trials, but “he sticks with his faith,” said Kathy Chitwood, executive director of Eastlight Theatre. “Sometimes your faith is all you’ve got to hold on to, and Joseph is a reminder of that to the audience.”

It is a reminder that is extended each year during the holidays, when people need it most. In conjunction with the Festival of Lights, Joseph lights up the stage with its own combination of colorful fun and extravagant costumes. There is constant dancing and singing of all kinds, from country-western to calypso—and even a French ballad. “It’s a feel-good kind of show,” expressed Chitwood warmly.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is more than a re-enactment of the story of Joseph and his 11 brothers. When you sing “Go Go Go Joseph” with the performers after Act I, you are encouraging yourself to reach higher and go further. Joseph is an inspiration of hope and a suggestion to dream. Escape the winter wonderland for just a few hours and join in the excitement of a well-known tale “with a story line that never fails to touch people,” as Chitwood declares.

Performances will take place on December 5th, 6th and 10th through 13th at 7:30pm, and on December 7th and 14th at 2pm. Tickets are $16 for adults and $6 for youth through high school. For more information, call (309) 699-7469. a&s