"I like captivating audiences": Q&A with Anthony James, director of Joseph!

 

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a big show - there's so much going on. How do you approach directing a show like this? And how do you keep track of all the moving parts on stage?

Tony James

 

My process with any production that I direct is to read the script once through line by line as a starting point. This helps me determine what areas/lines are standouts. I follow that up with a preliminary paper draft of each scene so that I can link the entrances and exits in away that is fluid and clean.

Once that phase is done I begin the "picture phase". This is where I close my eyes and visually map out each individual actor moving through the music/lines in my head. It's here where I really begin to see the story take shape. Much like a story board in film. If its clear in my head than it will be easier to translate to the actors.

After I have this base foundation laid out I write a secondary script which is the "Director's Guide". Basically the blocking that's in my head written line by line into one master document. It's then distributed to the production team so they can see where I'm going with each scene and how all the moving parts and overall dynamics will work going forward. It further always me to alter things once I see the first phase of physical blocking in front of me and understand if there are any limitations with my actors.

No matter what I always begin every show laying out a raw foundation for the actors and advise them not to worry about adding inflections and acting enhancements until such time as the show is entirely blocked. In this case I blocked the show in 4 weeks. Once that was complete, which was Feb 7, I have spent the rehearsals since layering every line/scene with the actors. By March 1 we have a complete show that tells the base story of the show and allowed the actors to master each scene without pressure or stress.

 

Are there any moments or parts of the show that you're really excited about?

 

I like captivating audiences and leaving them in moments where they can think of nothing else but what's in front of them. In "Close Every Door" for example the star is so compelling in the performance that he will unquestionably leave the audience having had a very emotional experience. The delivery of his performance is very stirring and haunting. So much so you likely won't hear a pin drop in the theatre. Add 8 cloaked figures carrying 6 foot poles with lit lanterns through the aisles and you have a pretty powerful and memorable scene.

Another scene that gets me is the brothers in "Those Canaan Days". It's not only funny but its vocally powerful. The lead vocalist in this scene is a remarkable actor who brings to life the lyrics in a way that is quite impressive. You then add each brother, and the characterizations and traits they have each developed, and you have something incredibly special.

It's difficult to choose specific things because the performance level of the actors is so off the charts at times they make a parade of moments come to life.

For example. In "Who's the Thief" there is a moment where Joseph walks downstage to young Benjamin, kneels in front of him, turns the cup upside down, and in a faint whispers just says "No". I wanted to create these types of quiet moments that also had a massive impact at the same time. Add a single overhead tight spotlight to that scene with the two of them and you have a pretty riveting moment.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Would G7 audiences recognize you from past projects?

 

This is actually my directorial debut with G7. I was invited to direct this show, which is an honor considering its the company's 100th production, back in the fall of 2018. I was fortunate enough to be able to place this project into my schedule and shortly thereafter came on board.

[Here's just a short excerpt from Tony's bio!]

"Originally from Victoria, British Columbia, Anthony started his artistic career at the age of 6 in print modelling, before entering the acting profession. He became professional at age 14... In the summer of 2002, Anthony was appointed Founding Managing Director of Vancouver Island’s first professional ballet company – Ballet Victoria... Following his work with Ballet Victoria, he was appointed Executive Director of the Canadian Pacific Ballet Company, and for the next several years produced several award nominated productions... Anthony has appeared in, produced, directed, written, created, and managed more than 350 projects over the span of his illustrious career and has been the recipient of more than 15 awards for performing, producing, service, citizenship, and philanthropy."

 

Who's in the cast? And how did we find all these people? It's a huge group!

Reuben Leonard as Joseph
Photo by Dianna Lewis.

 

I have several Principals in this show. All of whom are exceptional young artists. They include

Karina Falk - Narrator

Reuben Leonard - Joseph (He's just 16 and one of the finest young actors I have seen)

Brady Moore - Levi

Keegan Zaporozan - Pharaoh

Nikola Trotzuk - Reuben

This is rounded out by some pretty outstanding supporting and ensemble company members. Casting was in early December and was a 3 days process for each artist. Casting is one of the things I do in my career and I don't believe in 3 minute auditions for actors. I try my best to give each actor at least 10 mins. They all come in with nerves and if you give them 3 mins they sometimes walk away feeling like they didn't really show the full scope/range of their talent.

My process is much different. I let them do everything they planned once through. It's after that I work with them and give them some notes and then make them do it again. Usually they feel tens times better after that and they have forgotten about being nervous altogether. Its important to me that each actor auditioning for me succeed. If that means that I give them as much time as possible to deliver the performance they want to give than I providing them all with the best chance for a great audition is my goal.

 

How have rehearsals been going so far?

 

Rehearsals have been excellent. It helps when you have a talented group of artists prepared, focused, determined, energized, passionate, respectful, and supportive of the process and each other. We always start the rehearsal with meditation, vocal and dance warm-up, and then two songs - "Seasons of Love" from Rent and "From Now On" from The Greatest Showman". This gets everyone warmed up and ready to go.

As a Director I work very quickly so there is little time for standing around. We get right into things and sometimes they will do a scene 3-4 times in repetition so that its ingrained in them. This is intense acting but the result is always superb. Fortunately, I have such a brilliant cast and team behind me it makes the rehearsals smooth and memorable for all involved.

 

What can people expect when the lights go down?

 

One word "Magic"

 

 


 

 Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is coming March 22 to Abbotsford—get your tickets now!