One of the first live musicals I ever saw was “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in Chicago. In my memory, I am sitting very close to the stage, and I distinctly recall being mesmerized by Donny Osmond’s nipples while he crooned “Close Every Door to Me” behind bars.
Soon after, the soundtrack became a well-worn, beloved CD in the Tolsky family household. My brother Max and I took it upon ourselves to learn every color of Joseph’s coat in the order they were sung (sadly, I now only remember up to peach). A few years later, my age group at Jewish overnight camp put on a performance of the musical to a filled amphitheater of tired, sunburned kids (I played the role of “Back-Up Dancer #3.” It was non-speaking). Needless to say, this musical has always been a fond, multi-colored memory from childhood.
And then I didn’t think about it for, oh, 15 years, until I woke up yesterday morning with “Any Dream Will Do” stuck in my head. There was really only one thing to do: immediately download the soundtrack to my phone and listen to it on repeat for the next 48 hours.
What I discovered is that listening to a musical soundtrack on your morning commute makes a train ride feel a lot more exciting and dramatic. Here are 11 other things (one for each non-Joseph brother!) I picked up on now that I’m an adult, and no longer solely mesmerized by nipples:
1. “Jacob was the founder of a whole new nation/Thanks to the number of children he had.”
Wait, really? That’s all it took back then? Can you imagine if that was still the standard for country-building? I have two scary words for you: Duggar Nation.
2. So, they’re pretty serious about this favorite child thing.
We all know it’s pretty taboo to say you have a favorite child (a favorite child of any given moment, however, is totally cool). But Jacob was pretty hardcore about choosing Joseph as his favorite, and he wasn’t afraid to show it. To make matters worse, the narrator really rubs it in: “It made the rest feel second best/And even if they were.” Even if they were. Ouch. I’m not going to say anyone was asking for Joseph to be sold into slavery, but…
3. “I look handsome, I look smart/I am a walking work of art.”
OK yeah, he was kind of asking for it.
4. Was Joseph the first documented case of Stockholm Syndrome?
So sure, the city of Stockholm wasn’t established until, like, 18 centuries later, and the psychological phenomenon wasn’t coined until the ’70s, but lookie here: “Joseph was an unimportant/Slave who found he liked his master/Consequently worked much harder/Even with devotion.” Freud would have had a field day with this one.
5. “Go Go Go, Joseph” is a ridiculously fantastic song.
I don’t have anything funny or smart to say about this one. It’s just that good–like every bar mitzvah disco dance hit rolled into one feel-good song of biblical proportion. This one came on while I was cruising down the highway in my car alone, and all I can say is thank God it was already dark outside, because I was wildly dancing and flailing and using a lot of jazz hands and you can probably get arrested for that (or at least really embarrassed).
6. There’s totally a right-wing diss hidden in “Pharaoh Story.”
“No-one had rights or a/Vote but the king/In fact you might say/He was fairly right-wing.” Ooooh, burn. Definitely didn’t pick up on that when I was 8.
7. “Elvis Pharaoh” is not nearly as much of a thing as it needs to be.
I’m talking Purim costumes, people! Memes! Toys! Wall art! The possibilities are endless, and someone needs to get on it.
8. “Stone the Crows” covers 14 years in less than three minutes.
From a storytelling perspective, that is pretty, pretty impressive.
9. Besides the whole selling-their-brother-into-slavery thing, the other 11 brothers are pretty menschy.
So yeah, it is hard to forgive and forget when someone sells their brother for a couple of silver coins and tells their dad it was all the goat’s fault, but the brothers fully redeem themselves by the end when it comes to defending their littlest brother, Benjamin, in the form of an epic calypso jam. Nothing says you’ve matured into respectable young men like fake Caribbean accents. Nothing.
10. This musical has had the secret to the Fountain of Youth all along.
After much groveling from the brothers and Joseph’s reveal that he is, indeed, old Joe, Jacob comes to Egypt, as explained in this song: “So Jacob came to Egypt/No longer feeling old.” So that’s all it takes. Good to know.
11. Every good story, biblical or otherwise, needs to end in an 8.5-minute dance music megamix.
I hope I don’t go another 15 years before revisiting this Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece. Then again, the songs will be stuck in my head for another 15 years no matter what I do. Go go go go!