Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is touring once more and if audience reaction is anything to go by it is a sure fire hit. The Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical started life as a 25 minute end-of-term school musical way back in 1968, before being transformed into a full two hour musical.
The story covers Joseph growing up as his father's favourite son to the annoyance of his 11 brothers and his move from Canaan to Egypt as they sell him into slavery. But Joseph finds he has a talent for reading dreams and becomes Pharaohs' right hand man. The tale comes full circle when, during a famine, the brothers come to beg for food not realising that this great man of state is their wronged brother.
After a slow start this production comes into its own in the second half with the lead being played by Pop Idol contestant Andrew Derbyshire. Despite the fact Derbyshire lacks the cheeky innocence the part requires he brings the house down when he sings "Close Every Door".
Linking the show together is the Narrator played by Amanda Claire who brings to mind the 80s pop star Sonia, but at times Claire's voice lacks the strength necessary for such a part. The real star of this production is Michael Quinn who plays the Elvis-like Pharaoh with a freshness whilst maintaining his King-like qualities.
Bill Kenwright directs and produces this touring version and ensures that the humour is maintained throughout, while choreographer Henry Metcalf's routines are extremely entertaining. Don't be fooled by designer Sean Cavanagh's simple set - there are some surprises up his sleeve.
Joseph leads us through a catalogue of familiar songs "Any Dream Will Do", "Go,Go,Go Joesph" and "One More Angel In Heaven". The last fifteen minutes involve a reprise of the main songs with audience participation and by the end everyone is dancing and singing in the aisles. This is a feel good musical, which leaves the audience wanting more, and ensures that Joseph will go one touring for years to come.
- John Dixon (reviewed at the Theatre Royal Newcastle Upon Tyne)
NOTE: The following review dates from April 2001 and an earlier run of this ongoing touring production.
It's still open to debate whether Bill Kenwright, the producer/director of this excellent musical, has eclipsed Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber in the cliches and quirkiness of this, the composers' first-ever theatre collaboration. Still, no one in the audience was complaining.
Jacob (Andrew Jeffers) is the benign father figure who seems to have spent his entire life eating and begetting. The begetting is evidenced by a large family of sons, including, at the bottom end of the age range, the stunningly attractive dreamer, Joseph (the Antipodean Glen Drake). Patriarchal patronage extends to providing the favourite son Joseph with a coat of many colours, which does him no favours at all when Joseph's incensed brothers sell him into slavery rather than live in the shadow of his smile.
In the land of the pharaohs, to which Joseph is transported, his good looks get him into trouble yet again when the wife of his wealthy merchant patron, Potiphar (Andrew Jeffers), attempts to introduce him to her own form of begetting. Joseph resists temptation but to no avail; he's imprisoned for a crime for which lesser mortals would willingly have paid the full price. Of course, Joseph's incarceration is the ideal stepping stone to becoming the Pharaoh's (Trevor Jary) soothsayer and, ever onward and upward, his right-hand man for coping with the rigours of seven years' famine.
The musical seems fresher now that when it was first produced in 1968. It crackles with good humour and erudite one-liners, emphasising that nothing changes in the land of the pharaohs.
Musically this is Lloyd Webber at his very best. The score demonstrates his complete versatility and fearlessness in breaking musical theatre taboos - combining country & western, calypso, heavy rock and honky tonk in a kaleidoscope of sound to rival Joseph's coat. My personal favourite are the raunchy Elvis Presley renditions of the young Pharaoh (Trevor Jary) which set the audience to writhing, without offending grandma.
For his part, designer Sean Cavanagh is having nothing whatsoever to do with the subjugation of the female class. Purdah is not the flavour of the month and the costumes are stunningly simple, colourful and attractive. Indeed, the driving-force Narrator (Nadine Cox) is as sweet a picture as you could reasonably expect in a time of famine, with a voice which could melt a hard heart at a hundred paces.
But top marks go the star of the show, Drake. This is one performer who won't be in the shadows of the pyramids for long. He's destined for greater things and I'll be waiting.
- John Timperley (4 stars)