“I am special! I am special! I am special!”

If there was a scene that stood out for me in Trumpet’s musical production, Joseph the Dreamer (JTD) this year, it was when Joseph said these words while pounding on the prison floor, forcing himself to remember his value and identity. In my years of watching JTD, this was my first time to hear these words erupt from the character’s mouth, and I was hooked by how the scriptwriting evolved to its arguably best version yet—giving a new spin to the classic as it explored the different layers of the story’s conflict and turbulence. We often gloss over internal despair when we read about Joseph’s life in the Bible. I mean, how often do we think of Joseph as one who was gang-punched in prison (which probably did happen in real life)?

I had grown up watching Joseph the Dreamer with Audie Gemora as the first Joseph I ever saw and Carlo Orosa as Benjamin. Even back then, the songs and the acting mesmerized me, and my siblings and I played the JTD cassette tape countless times after, memorizing and marching “down, down, down to Egypt” in the living room, while I screeched my best to mimic Orosa’s crazy high notes. Now that Audie and Gary alternate as Jacob, and Orosa plays Pharaoh, I am even fonder of the play because of the nostalgia that hits me.  And after watching Gary V and Orosa perform last July 30, I can say that these seasoned artists are still top-notch, excellent in their platform delivery, with Orosa never dull, of course, with his vocal calisthenics!

There is a very young cast in this play, which for me heightens the sense of legacy among the more veteran actors, and a sense of family assemblage that boosts the very story of the family of Jacob—the different personalities represented, the joking, the tempers. This young cast acted, danced, and sang very well, often eliciting laughter from the crowd.

I was able to watch Neo Rivera, who alternates with Sam Concepcion as Joseph. I must say: Neo plays a magnificent Joseph. He acts with every cell of his body. He doesn’t pull back with his emotions and powerfully delivers his character into being. He possesses a strong, steady singing voice, and he lights the stage with his sharp dance moves. Kayla Rivera as Asenath also gives a stellar performance with her powerful narration, voice, and acting.

When it comes to the technical aspects of the play, I have to say that the direction done by Paolo Valenciano is brilliant, and that the use of color and light is a treat.  I love how the coat of many colors didn’t just stay on Joseph’s shoulders, but that it stretched with lights and cloth, allowing for color to overwhelm the audience’s sense of sight. Stage design is creative, with details of space and texture thoughtfully considered (imagine: prison cells made of cloth). The costumes are dazzling, and I particularly loved the wig of Jacob (reggae vibes!). The songs are the beloved classics from before; some with noticeable tweaking, especially the fast songs, which make for incredible dancing. I couldn’t help but dance in my seat!

Expectedly, the singing of everyone is fantastic. Aside from stalwarts Gary V and Carlo Orosa, and the younger Neo and Kayla, the vibrant voice of Bituin Escalante as Rachel is something to applaud.

 All in all, this season’s show gives this well-loved story a fresh take. It is also an encouragement to watch because of the COVID-19 lockdowns that prevented live shows for two years. Theater is now truly back!

There are still so many lessons one can find in JTD, the greatest of which is to “never look down” because hope is still alive— hope that God still has an ace up His sleeve during the darkest hours of our lives; hope that broken relationships in families can be restored and redeemed; and hope that dreams can still come true for the dreamer in us.

Gary speaking to the audience after the show.

Even if you’ve watched Joseph the Dreamer before—maybe as a child you tried reaching Orosa’s high notes from the comforts of home just like me— this season’s show is extremely worth watching. There are still shows on August 5,6, and 7, so book your tickets now before seats are sold out!

Janina Marie Rivera is the author of the book, A Night Bird Sings of Blindness and Fear and has co-authored the devotional, Dawns, published by OMF Literature. She is a contributing poet in the books Joyful Light and Whitmanthology: on Loss and Grief by Various Authors. She is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine.