Bill Kenwright's tour of this perennially popular musical returns to Manchester this week, gathering new converts as it travels.
Joseph is the ultimate feel-good musical for adults and children alike; a true family show. This production is also the version which has been around for a number of years, rather then the current, revamped West End version and this is definitely the one to take the kids to.
Craig Chalmers (an ex-Any Dream Will Do finalist) is an engaging Joseph, having both the vocal ability and physical appearance for the role – he needs to look good in a loincloth. He also has the necessarily cheesy grin which is used to great effect to gain the audience's sympathy for the character.
Tara Bethan (an ex-I'd Do Anything contestant) works hard as the narrator but at times seems to be straining to reach notes. The narrator is a role which needs to stand out when needed and blend into the background at other times. Unfortunately I found she blended in a little too well.
Stephen Webb's Pharoh is suitably Elvis-like and he delivers an excellent performance with real hip-swinging style. Likewise, Joseph's band of brothers are strong on voice and presence, making them a real joy to watch. Kevin Grogan is particularly good as the youngest, Benjamin. The handmaidens double up as wives, dancers and many other random characters but all provide value-for-money.
Sean Cavanagh's set keeps the show in its classic feel with a simple set of steps either side of the stage linked by a walkway. Production values are held high with some great additions to create each scene without becoming overly fussy. Costumes are similarly used with the brothers remaining in the same outfits throughout with simple additions to create the flavour for the themed numbers.
The Children's choir, without which no production of Joseph would be complete, are clearly well trained but unfortunately could rarely be heard over the principle performers.
This is an ideal production to introduce children to musical theatre without it being linked to a film they've already seen, and while you're there, well, you will enjoy it as well.
Joseph has been around in one form or another for over forty years but is as entertaining today as when I first saw it over thirty years ago. “Go go go Joseph! “