Call it the Any Dream Will Do effect, as this latest touring version of Joseph is a huge sell -out, due to the casting of Craig Chalmers and Keith Jack in the lead roles. Add to the mix Wayne Smith from Grease Is The Word and two other ex Josephs; Chris Barton and Antony Hansen and fans of reality television are in musical heaven.
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s family favourite still has all the best tunes, including “Jacob And Sons” and “One More Angel In Heaven.” They are delivered with real verve by the ensemble but the leads are only half good. Jack is a really commanding narrator with superb vocals and great stage presence. His accent is a bit too Celia Johnson for my liking but he acquits himself very well.
But,unfortunately Chalmers is nowhere near as talented or as watchable. Vocally he has no emotional resonance in his voice whatsoever and bizarrely he chooses to keep his Scottish accent, leading to one particularly unintentionally amusing scene, which due to his poor diction sounds like “a kilt of many colours!” Looking like David Beckham, circa 1998, Chalmers has nothing behind the eyes and therefore leaves you feeling unmoved.
The ensemble are all excellent, lifting the underwhelming lead to new heights on many occasions. Smith has the right amount of humour to carry off the role of the Elvis style Pharaoh. Henry Metcalfe is also impressive as Jacob, exuding experience on a stage packed with newcomers.
Bill Kenwright has upped the ante slightly with his touring set, as the last version I saw was almost cardboard. But, here we have some hilarious, inflatable sheep and a bit more depth. But, even so, there is still a low-rent feel to the backdrop.
Joseph remains a crowd-pleaser, as the songs still have that catchy quality guaranteed to leave you humming all the way home. But this production has a much more memorable storyteller and group of brothers than the biblical leader, himself.