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Gooseberry Park Players performs beloved Biblical tale with modern twist

Katherine Leiseth, center, and the rest of the cast rehearse the song “Joseph’s Coat” with colorful ribbons, sashes and lights. Chelsey Engelhard / The Arts Partnership1 / 3
Matthew Rohleder (center left) and Kaden Moszer (center right) rehearse a scene as Jacob and Joseph among Joseph’s 11 brothers. CChelsey Engelhard / The Arts Partnership2 / 3
Kaden Moszer (center) rehearses as Joseph with the cast of Gooseberry's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." Chelsey Engelhard / The Arts Partnership3 / 3

MOORHEAD — Many local kids have fond memories of acting and singing their hearts out in various Gooseberry Park Players productions.

The summer theater program has provided theatrical and educational opportunities to youth in the community every summer for over 30 years.

This summer, the organization is making the Old Testament new again with a modern adaptation of the beloved Biblical tale "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" July 11-16 at MInnesota State University Moorhead's Hansen Theatre.

Written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber, the family friendly musical follows Joseph, a young dreamer that is the favorite son of his father, Jacob.

After Jacob gifts Joseph a colorful coat to affirm his love, his 11 jealous brothers plot to sell Joseph into slavery. Charming Joseph finds himself in a thread of misfortunes that lead him to Egypt, where a troubled Pharaoh discovers Joseph has a knack for telling the future through dreams.

As Joseph rises to power, he must confront those who betrayed him and choose the path to revenge or forgiveness.

Gooseberry Park Players chose to perform the classic story because of its large ensemble-oriented cast and tech crew, which includes 47 cast members and 24 tech students that represent 17 schools in the community.

"We try to choose a show that's going to give kids the most opportunities and can also educate them," says board member Dana Haagenson. "We have an activity fee free program because we believe art isn't just for people who can pay for it — it needs to be for everyone."

Normally "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is set during Biblical times, but because the classic story has room for creative interpretation, co-directors Darcy and Lauren Brandenburg decided to incorporate a few modern twists.

Updates in the show include multiple narrators, two of which are a mother and child telling the tale through the lens of a bedtime story.

The show also has live orchestration with music inspired by rock and folk bands — like Green Day, Fallout Boy, and Mumford and Sons — as well as costumes that reflect modern Egyptian fashion and instrumental performances on stage throughout the production.

"By doing 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,' we feel we can help the most students improve and increase their love for theatre," says co-director Darcy Brandenburg.

In addition to preparing for the show, students take morning classes early in the season to help them improve their singing, dancing and acting skills. Outside rehearsal, students and Gooseberry Park Players organizers volunteer together throughout the community.

"We're focusing on these areas to create not only well-rounded actors but well-rounded people as well," Darcy Brandenburg said.

Kaden Moszer, a 15-year-old Moorhead High School student who plays Joseph, said his experience in the production so far has encouraged him to pursue other areas in the performing arts.

"I've learned to read music, and I'm teaching myself to play piano," Moszer says. "It's because people in theater are so encouraging and help me learn how to be professional in a setting like this."

"We're creating this community of artists that are supporting each other like a family," Darcy Brandenburg said. "There's not a competitive feel; it's about making art."

If You Go

What: "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

When: 7:30 p.m. July 11-15; 1 p.m. July 16

Where: Hansen Theatre in MSUM's Roland Dille Center for the Arts (801 13th St. S. in Moorhead)

Tickets: $10-16. Call (218) 477-2271 or visit gooseberryparkplayers.org/tickets.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit theartspartnership.net.

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