Children from Queen Creek and San Tan Valley take the stage at the Mesa Arts Center

By Katy Springer, special for Independent Newsmedia

Young artists from Queen Creek, San Tan Valley and throughout the East Valley will take the stage at the Mesa Arts Center August 4-14 in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

The musical, which brings the biblical story of Jacob and his 12 sons to life, is produced by Limelight Performing Arts and kicks off the youth theater company’s 2022-23 season.

San Tan Valley’s Shayla Forero was only 7 when Limelight first produced the show. It was 2016 and the musical won numerous accolades, including the National Youth Arts Award for Outstanding Production. Six years later, Limelight is picking up the epic show.

Now 13, Forero, once a member of the children’s choir, plays a much bigger role.

“I play the apple dancer, an incredible role that is also very difficult,” she said.

The Apple Dancer represents a key moment in the story when famine strikes Canaan and the brothers and their families starve. When Forero enters the scene – eating an apple – the brothers each attempt to steal the precious fruit.

“This scene is one of my favorites in the musical,” said Marie South, who along with Limelight artistic director Emma England directs the show. “The music is tango, and the brothers take turns teaming up with Shayla, trying to grab her apple as she holds it out of reach. It’s entertaining and very well danced, but it also underscores the desperation how the brothers feel at that moment.

Despite prominent themes like starvation and slavery, the production is upbeat, light-hearted, and full of comic relief. With lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, it features colorful characters and costumes, modern choreography and a range of music and dance styles – from French ballad to bubble gum pop to a country-western hoedown and an Elvis-singing pharaoh.

“It’s colorful, hilarious and so much fun,” England said.

Beyond her role as the apple dancer in the “Canaan Days” scene, Forero is on stage throughout the show as a member of the ensemble.

Also in the ensemble is Jordan Brent, 17, of Queen Creek. She was also chosen as a featured dancer.

“I play many different roles throughout the show, like a bride, a scarf dancer, a tree, corn, and many other fun parts,” she said.

England added that unlike “most productions with a few protagonists who carry the story, ‘Joseph’ is an ensemble-led show. Each performer in this cast must be a true triple threat, as each of them plays a important role in the telling of the story.

Mackenzie Gilligan, 14, of Queen Creek, enjoys her role and faces the challenge head-on.

“I’m part of the ensemble, so I play multiple roles,” she said. “I’m in almost every dance number. The hardest part of the show for me is the dancing.

The 90-minute production is demanding. Every word of the musical is sung, every scene is choreographed, and every performer plays a key role in bringing the story to life.

Preston South, 13, of Queen Creek, plays Jacob, the butler and other ensemble roles.

“I love playing multiple characters on the show and I love how different the roles are,” he said. “The hardest thing for me is memorizing how my costume changes.”

Forero said the hardest part for her was all the things she had to remember.

“From all the dance moves to all the sung harmonies, there’s a lot to do at once,” she said.

For Brent, it’s a chance to hone his craft and be part of a major production while spending time with his castmates.

“I’ve always loved being on Limelight shows,” she said. “The shows are spectacular and I love meeting new people. Youth theater is a great way to meet new people and grow as a performer.

No production of “Joseph” would be complete without a children’s choir. The group of young people move in and out of the world and tell the story of “Joseph”, singing and adding new layers to each scene and song.

“The children’s choir is important because it shows a child’s perspective on the show,” said 11-year-old Audra, south of Queen Creek. “We are on stage singing and dancing during most musicals and helping people understand the story of the Bible.”

As opening night draws near, the actors eagerly await the audience’s response to their hard work.

“It’s amazing that a few weeks ago we were learning the first moves for the opening number and now we’re wrapping up the show,” Brent said. “I also love watching each individual shine. Our cast is extremely talented and this musical showcases all of our incredible dancers and singers.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” features a cast of 50 East Valley artists ages 6-21. Tickets are $16 plus box office fees and are available at the Mesa Arts Center box office at MesaArtsCenter.com keyword “technicolor”, or by visiting ll-pa.org. Group discounts are available. The Mesa Arts Center is located at One East Main St. in Mesa.

“The hard work and incredible passion of the cast will be evident in the impeccable quality of this performance,” said England. “At the heart of this show is a powerful message of love and unity that will resonate with children and adults alike.”

Katy Springer is Limelight Performing Arts’ Marketing Manager.

Joseph and the incredible Technicolor Dreamcoat,

San Tan Valley,

queen creek,

Mesa Arts Center