Meet Janet Metz, Narrator For NewArts 'Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'
This feature was updated at 12:15 pm on August 6 to correct interview content from Ms Metz and Mr Unger.
BETHEL - As dozens of cast members from the NewArts production ofÃÂ
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatÃÂ swirled through a kaleidoscopic dance routine one recent afternoon at the Walnut Hill Community Church, a decidedly older cast member moved toward the front of the group raising her voice in song alongside her equally enthusiastic fellow cast members.
While the local production ofÃÂ
JosephÃÂ is the latest in a series of popular musical undertakings for the NewArts actors, singers, and dancers, Janet Metz, who portrays the Narrator, happily finds herself in familiar territory and working under the guidance of a very familiar director, her husband Michael Unger.
This production marks the third go-round for Ms Metz, who previously played the Narrator to Donny Osmond's Joseph at Toronto's Elgin Theatre in 1992, and in a revival of the popular Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical in Atlanta in 2011. The NewArts production will be staged beginning Friday, August 11, at 7 pm; Saturday, August 12, at 2 and 7 pm; and Sunday, August 13, at 2 pm.
Sitting for a post-rehearsal chat withÃÂ
The Newtown BeeÃÂ a little over a week until opening night, Ms Metz said she was still getting used to working with her latest group of fellow actors, and having a blast so far. Over the four summers and one winter that her husband has spent working first with the 12/14 Foundation which morphed into NewArts, she said she has watched from the sidelines supporting Mr Unger's efforts to build a year-round Broadway-level theater program for the nonprofit that sprung up in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
But this summer, the perfect show with the perfect role opened up so she, along with daughter Phoebe, who is dancing in the chorus, and son, Nathaniel, who is working the backstage crew, have become integral parts of the ever growing NewArts initiative.
"Up to now the opportunity didn't present itself," Ms Metz said of the invitation to share her talent and experience with theÃÂ
JosephÃÂ cast and crew. "The first priority is always to cast locally for the roles. But over the years Michael has been lucky to attract Broadway-level professionals to the program. And it wasn't the initial intention for me to do this, but fortunately my schedule made me available, having just come from running the York Theatre Company's summer education program, which I'd done for three summers while Michael was working here."
JosephÃÂ with Osmond for three years was an amazing experience.
She said doing the North American premiere ofÃÂ
American IdolÃÂ [finalist] Anthony Fedorov."
"It was revived in London first, and then the same creative team brought the show to America," she said. "So a Canadian producer got the rights to do it and we opened in Toronto for over a year. Then we did it in Minneapolis, in Vancouver, Edmonton, and ended up in Chicago for a year-and-a-half. That show continued on for three more years. Then more recently, I performed it in Atlanta and Florida for awhile beside formerÃÂ
Her children also got to be part of that production as well.
Ms Metz said she enjoys the Narrator role because she not only gets to facilitate the storytelling, but the many ways she is able to integrate into the story itself.
"I have a lot of fun with that," she said laughing. "When I did it for three years I thought I found every nook and cranny to sort of stick myself into, whether it was weaving myself into the Pharaoh number as one of his adoring fans, posing as a Sphinx, or just sitting among the children, which I love, and sharing the perspective of the story from their point of view."
The prolific actress, who once understudied Sarah Jessica Parker in Broadway'sÃÂ
Once Upon A Mattress, said her Narrator represents "the everyman, she is speaking for everyone on stage while communicating and storytelling. She's something of a cross between a Sunday school teacher, but also becomes a buddy of Joseph throughout the story - sometimes helpful, and sometimes not so helpful."
Ms Metz said while the role offers an incredibly rich acting experience, it is incredibly challenging from a singer's position. She said she idolized Laurie Beechman, who originated the Narrator role in the Tony-winning premiere of the show in 1982, but when the revival came around, all the vocal arrangements were boosted into a significantly higher register.
"We're going up three steps, and I remember in 1992 when I was given the score, and I looked at it and said what is this? It's not the score I sang along to with Laurie Beechman," Ms Metz said. "So after about three months I had to sort of regroup. My voice was getting tired, and I went back to New York and consulted with my vocal coach, who told me to get through eightÃÂ shows a week. I needed to exercise my voice and train like an Olympic athlete. But these big notes are so exciting to sing, they kind of match the emotional rises throughout the show."
The role also calls for her to be on stage most of the time, and as a result, she is still finding new business and ways to expand the role.
"It's called a play, after all, so I'll be working on finding new things to play with in the character up until opening night," she said.
When asked about how this turn inÃÂ
JosephÃÂ fits into the succession of Narrator roles she is making her own, Ms Metz turned to the musical's local program, quoting from introductory remarks scripted by her husband.
"He said the themes of this summer are one's destiny. Joseph is challenged, he's born into a challenging and jealous situation among his brother. And he loses sight that he can believe in his own goodness," she said.
"And in doing so he makes the innate choice to reach out instead of shutting the door," she continued. "I think that fits so well with NewArts credo to 'rise above and go beyond.' Joseph chooses to look for the good in people, and I think as Michael said, if you believe in yourself and don't let anyone get in the way of your aspirations, you will be a success. And NewArts offers that kind of confidence-building component. And it teaches that everyone has a uniqueness with which they can do good - as Joseph does for the Pharaoh, his brothers, and his father."
Following her first Broadway role and understudy responsibilities forÃÂ
Once Upon a MattressMarie ChristineÃÂ at Lincoln Center alongside Audra McDonald, as well as Broadway revivals ofÃÂ , Ms Metz went on to work inÃÂ On the TownÃÂ andÃÂ Fiddler on the Roof.
"A lot of people also know me from the original company of Bill Finn'sÃÂ
Falsettoland, which was very successful," she said. "I also did a show in New York calledÃÂ I Love You, You're Perfect, Now ChangeÃÂ for three years, and I was Mrs Cratchit in Michael's production ofÃÂ A Christmas CarolÃÂ at the McCarter Theater in New Jersey for a few years. I got my Equity card working with Anthony Newley in his revival ofÃÂ Stop the World - I want to Get Off, and originated a role inÃÂ The Spitfire Grill."
Turning to Michael Unger for a few last words about this summer's production of
Joseph, he excitedly refers to the explosive dance numbers being developed by choreographer Tara Jeanne Vallee, who is back following her work in last summer'sÃÂ School of Rock.
"This is by far the most ambitious choreography a NewArts musical has ever had," he said of the dance and production numbers.
Mr Unger said he thought a lot of theÃÂ choreography audiences saw in last summer's NewArts production ofÃÂ
School of RockÃÂ was fantastic, but, "this production ofÃÂ JosephÃÂ takes it to an even higher level.ÃÂ It's not to be missed."
All NewArts productions this year are in the theater at Walnut Hill Community Church in the Stony Hill section of Bethel, at 156 Walnut Hill Road. Visit
newarts.org for tickets and other show information, and to learn about volunteer needs and other ways to support NewArts.