Theater review: Gary V still the total entertainer in 'Joseph the Dreamer'

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Jul 23 2022 03:41 PM

Gary Valenciano at curtain call. Handout
Gary Valenciano at curtain call. Handout

MANILA -- Up to the last minute, COVID 19 reared its ugly head to cancel the performances of the Trumpets musical, “Joseph the Dreamer," on its first weekend run from July 15 to 17.

Four artists turned positive – cast members and lead production people – making it not possible to stage the scheduled performances last weekend. 

On Friday, July 22, however, “Joseph the Dreamer” returned onstage with a full-house crowd, making it a much-awaited production anew. It was among the last musicals staged in 2020 before a nationwide lockdown was declared due to the pandemic.

Now that the COVID 19 protocols have eased, “Joseph the Dreamer” becomes the first musical to return onstage, much to the pride of its cast and producers.

Making this one bigger is the addition of Gary Valenciano to the cast as Jacob, the father of Joseph, the role he played 23 years ago. 

Shedding off his Mr. Pure Energy title to essay the role of Jacob, Valenciano was totally unrecognizable with his long locks and beard. Yet, when he moved and performed onstage, he is unmistakably still Gary V, every inch a total entertainer, despite turning 58 next month.

“I have to put what it really is to be a father,” Valenciano earlier disclosed. “I am not a father to 12 sons [like Jacob], but I need to be able portray who I really am as a dad, not who I am as Mr. Pure Energy and put that into the character of Jacob.”

With Sam Concepcion, tagged as Valenciano’s “heir apparent,” reprising his role as Joseph, the musical was given a younger vibe, thus adding to its captured audience. This triple threat artist never disappointed as he sang, danced and acted onstage.

 The cast of 'Joseph the Dreamer' at curtain call. Handout
The cast of 'Joseph the Dreamer' at curtain call. Handout

“Joseph the Dreamer” undoubtedly never grows old. Amazingly. Adapted by the late theater genius, Freddie Santos, from a cantata by Cam Floria back in 1989, the musical has evidently evolved through decades.

From the time the rousing “Praise His Name” was heard onstage, with the highly energetic cast dancing and singing, the audience was treated to two-and-a-half hours of vibrant theater entertainment.

This new “Joseph the Dreamer” directed by Paolo Valenciano, caters to both young and old audience, thanks to MJ Arda’s choreography.

Kids as young as seven years old – Scarlett Snow Belo was seated with her dad, Dr. Hayden Kho – remained on their seats, consistently curious and entertained. 

Valenciano admitted he had to join the high-energy performance of the amazing cast of “Joseph the Dreamer.”

“Honestly, to be a part of this cast, you have no choice but to pour out all the energy you need to, because if you don’t, you’ll be left behind somehow,” he said.

“The pandemic has really dampened even the courage to dream again. I’m hoping this will encourage many to come and watch. To say it’s okay. You’re going to hit the rough waters, as well. When your ship has the Lord at the helm, then you will get where you want to get to, no matter what.”

With Myke Salomon as musical director, “Joseph the Dreamer” songs remain well-loved even after three decades. There were catchy ones, like “One Song Is Not Enough” and “Praise His Name.“

There were also the haunting “In Moments Like These,” “He Will Carry You” and “Life Father, Like Son,” the duet of Jacob and Joseph.

Carla Guevarra Laforteza stepped into the role of Rachel and delivered the stratospheric “He Opens the Window,” as Concepcion effortlessly displayed his admirable talent in an interpretative dance.

The beautiful Kayla Rivera reprised her role of Egyptian princess Asenath and crooned “Everything I Need.” 

Elai Estrella played the young Joseph and joined Concepcion and Valenciano in the singing and dancing.

Though a last-minute replacement -- he was not even on the play bill -- Topher Fabregas brilliantly essayed the role of Pharaoh and had the audience in stitches with his hilarious dialogue. 

Fabregas provided most of the comedy for “Joseph the Dreamer.” At one point, he even quoted lines from the song of Queen. To think that he had very little time, only a few days, to read his lines and rehearse.

Joseph was sold by his envious brothers as a slave in Egypt and they never heard from him again. He rose to become the right-hand man of the Pharaoh when he managed to interpret his horrible dream of seven thin, ugly cows eating up the fat and healthy ones. It was seven years of famine and seven years of abundance for Egypt.

Not a few eyes turned misty again when “Joey” was reunited with his family – Jacob and his 11 brothers, from the eldest Reuben to the youngest, Benjie. That served as the climax of the musical.

Without being preachy, Valenciano addressed the audience after curtain call, shared his inspiring devotional for that day and led a short prayer.

“With God, new things can be good things. I’m blessed that you are here. Your being here is a confirmation that God did not take us this far to just take us this far. This is only our first night,” he said.

“Joseph the Dreamer” will run for two more weekends, ending on August 7 at the Globe Auditorium, Maybank Performing Arts Theater at Bonifacio Global City.