'Dreamcoat' and 'Pump Boys' -- two musicals that really sing; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Starring Bill Hutton and Laurie Beechman. Pump Boys and Dinettes Musical starring Jim Wann, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, and Cass Morgan.
New York — Though one is biblical and the other is country-and-western, these shows are like peas in a pod.
Both are Off-Broadway hits that have moved to Broadway theaters. Both are short, running less than 90 minutes. Both are musicals that really sing, with hardly a spoken word to be heard. And both are charming entertainments, if you don't mind paying inflated Broadway prices for packages that are as slim as they are tuneful.
''Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'' comes from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who essayed biblical territory in ''Jesus Christ Superstar'' a few years ago. The real star of the team is lyricist Rice, who takes a jaunty approach to his timeless tale -- cordially pointing to Pharaoh as a right-wing type with a weak record on human rights, and not hesitating to rhyme ''pyjamas'' with ''farmers'' when the occasion warrants.
The mood is comic-strippish all the way, lacking the serious undertones of, say, ''Godspell.'' But the basics of the story come across, and the warmth of Joseph's reunion with his family makes a fitting climax for such a cheerful show.
As directed and choreographed by Tony Tanner, the action is fast. The sets and lighting are flat and functional, the costumes witty in a Mad magazine kind of way.
Originally intended as a showpiece for schools and colleges, ''Joseph'' looks a bit sparse at the Royale Theater, but its energy is impressive, and the cast -- led by Bill Hutton as Joseph and Laurie Beechman as the narrator -- doesn't let up for a moment.
''Pump Boys and Dinettes'' transforms the front section of the Princess Theater into a down-home diner, complete with square tables and drawling waitresses. The action of the show takes place in some Sunbelt state, maybe Florida, and consists mostly of amiable country songs.
It's more a concert than a musical, but the material is so varied nobody seems to mind. While most pop music is about love, country music has long been cherished for its audacity in tackling other topics such as trucks and fishing and food. And sure enough, the ''Pump Boys and Dinettes'' program includes a ''Highway 57,'' a ''Fisherman's Prayer,'' and a ''Menu Song,'' not to mention a waitresses' special called ''Tips.'' Yet love is not forgotten, as an unrequited tenor croons ''The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine.''
The pump boys are played by Jim Wann, who wrote most of the songs; a very funny pianist named Mark Hardwick; and John Foley and John Schimmel. The dinettes, are Debra Monk and Cass Morgan. All sing lustily and long in this Dodger Theater production and look right at home in the folksy set by Doug Johnson and Christopher Nowak.
When the inevitable ''Closing Time'' tune comes along, you'll wish you could stay a while longer.