'Dreamcoat'; Jessye Norman; Jewish Traveling Theatre; Copley Sq. Ballet
''Cats'' has just left town. ''Starlight Express'' hasn't yet left London. How do you satisfy local Andrew Lloyd Webber fans in between superhits? One answer is to resurrect the Tony-nominated ''Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,'' an early Webber-Tim Rice musical. Unfortunately, only partial credit may be given.
Despite the abundance of energy and enthusiasm generated by this ex-Broadway cast, ''Joseph'' remains exactly what it is - a first work of a budding student composer and his equally young lyricist. Originally written for children when Webber was only 20 years old, ''Joseph'' has a lot of zest, a lot of promise, but little dramatic substance.
Detailing the Old Testament narrative of Joseph, the favored son of the patriarch Jacob, Webber's work traces the story in seamless song - a slightly operatic and then-novel device. This absence of the book, or spoken dialogue, was to become the composer's trademark, and diehard fans should enjoy unearthing its origins as well the buddings of other Webber devices and themes - techniques which came into much greater flower in the composer's subsequent and more mature works, including ''Evita,'' ''Cats,'' and ''Jesus Christ Superstar.''
What ''Joseph'' is lacking - and the current cast tries hard to compensate for this flaw - is the judicious use of song to augment dramatic exposition. A clever composer, Webber easily imitates and parodies any number of musical styles. Hoedown, calypso, cabaret, rock 'n' roll are clearly within his command. But lacking a unifying theme or careful editing, ''Joseph'' becomes simply a hodgepodge; no one style takes ascendency and no one song is truly memorable.
For instance, while Hal Davis's performance as the Elvis Presley-like Pharaoh is hilarious and consistent unto itself, it remains essentially a joke, neither enhancing nor furthering the production as a whole. And the 12-brother chorus runs through as many different melodic techniques as plagues visited upon the children of Israel.
But the production - now in a post-Broadway national tour under the direction of Tony Tanner - should appeal to children. The music is loud and well sung, especially by principals Don Goodspeed and Robin Boud-reau. The scenery, by Karl Eigsti, is bright and colorfully cartoonlike; much of the humor is visual and the plot, from the book of Deuteronomy, is decidely G-rated. At the Wilbur Theatre through July 8.