Christian Youth Theater program open to kids and adults

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter



If you go

What: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a musical presented by Christian Community Theater, a new division of Christian Youth Theater Vancouver/Portland.

When: 7 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 7 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 14.

Where: Washougal High School’s Washburn Performing Arts Center, 1201 39th St., Washougal.

Cost: Advance tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for youths, seniors and groups. Tickets are $3 more at the door. All tickets to the 3 p.m. Aug. 6 show are $10 in advance, and $13 at the door.

Information: Christian Youth Theater, 360-750-8550.

Turning 19 can be tough on Christian Youth Theater participants. The nonprofit theater program is specifically for those 8 to 18 years old, and once people age out, they have to leave behind an activity that many have been part of for years.

The new all-ages Christian Community Theater program launched this summer by CYT Vancouver/Portland is helping to change that. Christian Community Theater gives CYT alumni, as well as CYT instructors, parents of CYT kids and the public at large, the opportunity to appear on stage with the organization.

Christian Community Theater also offers Christian Youth Theater a way to generate revenue through participation fees and ticket sales during what is typically a lean time of year for the organization. CYT offers camps but no main-stage shows during the summer.

Christian Community Theater’s debut production, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” opens Friday and continues through Aug. 14 at Washougal High School’s Washburn Performing Arts Center.

For CYT veteran Larry Taylor, the show is familiar, much-missed territory. Taylor participated in CYT Vancouver/Portland from its founding in 2002 until he was too old. He has appeared in other productions outside CYT, but still welcomed the addition of Christian Community Theater.

“There’s just no substitute for CYT people,” said Taylor, a Vancouver resident who recently graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a theater arts degree.

Taylor plays Judah, one of Joseph’s brothers, in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” He’s part of a cast of about 50 people ranging in age from 8 to 50-plus.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is based on the Biblical story of Joseph, his jealous brothers and one very colorful garment, said J. Scott Lapp, the show’s director.

Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons, is sold into slavery by his brothers, who are jealous of his coat, which they see as emblematic of their father’s favoritism.

Joseph eventually gets thrown into prison, but he is freed when the Pharaoh needs a dream interpreter and learns of Joseph’s talents in that area. Joseph rises to prominence and eventually reconciles with his family.

“It’s a fascinating story,” Taylor said.

Musical styles in the show run the gamut from rock to country to disco to Calypso, Lapp said.

Songs include the well-known ballad “Close Every Door,” which Joseph sings while imprisoned, the ’70s-style “Go, Go, Go Joseph,” the country-themed “One More Angel in Heaven” and a big song-and-dance medley at the end.

CYT Vancouver/Portland leaders were excited to have Lapp at the helm for the inaugural Christian Community Theater production. Lapp grew up participating in CYT in San Diego, where the theater program was launched in 1981. There are now 23 CYT affiliates in the United States and Canada. A few, such as San Diego and Chicago, have Christian Community Theater divisions.

Lapp directed for CYT San Diego after aging out of the program, and in the past three years has started directing professional theater productions. He assistant directed a new musical, “Bonnie & Clyde,” at La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla, Calif. The show then moved to Florida last fall. This fall, it will open on Broadway, with Lapp again assistant directing.

Lapp recently was selected to attend a Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation emerging artists symposium and received the “Best Direction” distinction from National Youth Arts for his work on the Fallbrook Players’ production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Fallbrook, Calif.

His sister, Chelsea Nicole Lapp, also a CYT San Diego veteran, is choreographing the local production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Lapp is connected to CYT Vancouver/Portland through former interim executive artistic director Justin Parks — both were involved with CYT San Diego.

Parks now is executive artistic director of CYT Chicago. He came to Vancouver last August to help the local CYT branch shore up its finances.

In 2009, CYT Vancouver/Portland plunged $75,000 into debt. Big spending combined with naiveté about cash flow and lagging effects of the recession — dwindling ticket sales, donations, advertising and class and camp registration fees — left CYT scrambling to stay afloat, Parks said in an interview last year.

CYT Vancouver/Portland cut costs and streamlined operations for its four areas (Vancouver, Vancouver East, Portland Eastside and Beaverton) and is now in the black, said Kristi Foster, who took over as executive director after Parks went back to Chicago in May.

Christian Community Theater is one way for CYT to help stay financially stable, said Foster, who has been active with CYT Vancouver/Portland in various roles since its inception.

Looking to the future, Foster hopes to see Christian Community Theater continue offering a musical each summer.

Karl Johnson is excited about the prospect.

His 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, participates in CYT. All parents of CYT participants are required to volunteer on committees to help with productions. Christian Community Theater, however, is a chance for Johnson to be involved with the organization in a different way and to fulfill a lifelong goal.

Johnson, a Battle Ground resident, wrestled and played football in high school. He wanted to do theater, as well, but rehearsals conflicted with sports practices.

Christian Community Theater has given him the opportunity he didn’t get in school. Friday evening, he’ll make his long-awaited acting debut playing both Potiphar and the baker in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

“It’s like a dream,” Johnson said.

It’s also an opportunity to act alongside Jessica, who’s in the show’s children’s chorus.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” he said. “We’ve had some great times singing together and just being out there with her and seeing her grow up.”

Mary Ann Albright:;;; 360-735-4507.