So the show, not Joseph, died for a bit, then all was fine and dandy. This was the revival of the camp-as-camels 1991 London Palladium version directed by the late lamented Steven Pimlott, brilliantly designed by Mark Thompson, beautifully choreographed by Anthony van Laast, featuring the winner of the Saturday night BBC television contest, Lee Mead from Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
Lee's just the job. He has footballer thighs, curly black hair and a voice that never gives up even when he misses the melodic line at moments of stress. The mums will like him and other older women – I took a quick straw poll because I fell amongst them in the interval – find him sexy. Myself, I prefer the camel, but hey, “Any Dream Will Do”.
The show looks so much better in the Adelphi than it did before, balancing the charm of the children’s chorus with the vaudeville excesses among the Pyramids and Egyptian café classes with a firmer control. The scale is more suited to the content, and Lee is less desperate to please than either Jason Donovan or (oh God, he was awful) Philip Schofield.
How extraordinary the history of this show is, and how moving it was to see Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice take a bow (“I’ll just do a selection of early hits,” said Tim, crooking his leg a la Elvis). The 20-minute 1968 pop cantata became a 40-minute Young Vic cabaret, then an hour-long West End filler, then this; while remaining all along the favourite all-time Biblical school musical show, eclipsing Herbert Chappell’s The Daniel Jazz and even Benjamin Britten’s Noyes’ Fludde.
It brims with witty musical invention and engagingly literate lyrics, now encompassing pop styles of calypso, country music, Parisian café songs and megamix disco sounds, drawing out a fantastic all-purpose finale from such still fresh items as the irresistible “Any Dream Will Do” and the sinuous “Close Every Door to Me”, which Joseph takes from a prison lament to Verdian heights of political, nationalistic fervour.
Rice and Lloyd Webber have written a lovely new song, “King of My Heart”, for the Elvis-style Pharaoh (Dean Collinson), which stitches together many fine clichés while inventing some surprise melodic leaps. Preeya Kalidas, the star of Bombay Dreams, makes up in style and beauty as the Narrator what she lacks in vocal texture, while Stephen Tate, the original Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, is a notable Potiphar. Stunning costumes all round, too, and not just the coloured coat.
- Michael Coveney