New Brighton actor takes the stage in “Joseph”

New Brighton resident Wes Mouri is serving as understudy for six of Joseph’s brothers in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. (Heather Edwards/Bulletin)

It isn’t easy being a theatre understudy; you must always be prepared to take an actor’s place if they become ill or are injured. However, if an actor enjoys perfect health, the understudy may never take the stage despite extensive preparation.

“(Audience members) don’t think about what really goes into being an understudy,” noted Wes Mouri of New Brighton, who is an understudy for the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre’s current production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

However, Wes, 22, doesn’t understudy for one actor; he is able to stand in for six roles: Joseph’s oldest brothers Naphtali, Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah and Dan.

There was only one understudy rehearsal and Wes has never performed in four of the six brother roles. Although he has extensive “cheat sheets” for each role, he would barely have time to consult them since the brothers are onstage for long portions of the production, particularly in the first act.

However, Wes took the stage recently after actor Michael Gruber (“Napthali”) injured his back during a performance. He was able to finish the show, but told Wes he wouldn’t be able to go on the next night.

The next afternoon, Michael walked Wes through his ‘track’ and that night, Wes played the part.

“Wes was really prepared and was ready to jump right in for me the next day,” says Michael. “It’s the sort of thing where you have to be quick and confident about and often there’s not much time to prepare.

As a young actor, he did his job and was ready to go – so ‘the show could go on.’”

Wes will be filling in for Michael later this month, although this time the vacancy is planned.

During a typical performance Wes performs as part of the ensemble cast and helps keep an eye on the two kids who are randomly picked from the audience each night to perform in the show.

“It’s really fun working with the kids,” he says. “Depending on their personalities, each show can be really different from the one before.”

Originally from Rockford, Ill., Wes attended Bethel University and at first sought a degree in teaching; his parents and sister are teachers as well. But after performing in a Bethel theatre production, he realized teaching wasn’t for him.

“I realized I could do this (acting) for a career,” he says.  “This was where I was happiest.”

He was hesitant to tell his parents, who still live in Illinois. Their response was, “It’s about time.”

Wes earned his degree in theatre with an acting/directing/musical theatre emphasis in 2012. This is his second show at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre; he was part of the ensemble cast in their recent staging of “Bye Bye Birdie.”

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” holds a special place in Wes’ heart; he remembers as a kindergartner gazing at a mural of Joseph and his multi-colored coat painted in the reading area of his classroom. In addition, he loves the theme behind the musical version of the Bible story. “The storyline is about forgiveness,” he says. “It’s a testament to who God is, and that He loves us despite of our sin.”

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” runs now through Sept. 21. For more information go to or call the box office at 952-934-1525.

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