Was Joseph at The Palladium a critic's dream?
The new production opened starring Jac Yarrow, Sheridan Smith and Jason Donovan
Alun Hood, WhatsOnStage
"Are you old enough to remember Jason Donovan or Phillip Schofield in the lavish early 90s Palladium Joseph? Forget about all that if you're coming to see this new Palladium production as what we have here is basically The Sheridan Smith Show, loosely based on the beloved Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber family hit. Not inappropriately for the foremost Variety Theatre in the land, the overall tone is nearer to a high budget summer panto than a traditional West End musical."
"Sheridan is Everywhere. She leads the kids, heads up company numbers, she body-pops, belts, gurns, pokes her tongue out, she dons an eye patch and a false beard, she constantly pulls focus, and barely leaves the stage."
"Enjoyable as it is, it's all a bit relentless. However, if you're a die hard Sheridan Smith fan you can probably add at least one more star to the rating above."
Amanda Cable, Metro
"This 2019 reimagining by director Laurence Connor has plucked an unknown as Joseph, following a tweet from his drama college production praising his talent. Yarrow, a 21-year-old student due to graduate this summer, brings a new intensity and energy to the role — think The Night Manager meets Joseph. When he sings "Close Every Door" — amid the dazzling prison set — with vein-bulging brilliance, his true potential emerges.
"But this performance isn't about the new boy. It was always about Sheridan Smith returning to the stage after her rollercoaster ride in Funny Girl, where she triumphed following a breakdown. And ‘by 'eck', as her Narrator would say, she's reinvented this role with humour and intelligence, bringing Joseph something it's never had before — some actual depth."
Nick Curtis, Evening Standard
"The real motor of the evening is Sheridan Smith, returning to the stage for the first time since 2016. As the narrator, the former Evening Standard Theatre Award-winner takes a series of hilarious cameo roles, belting out songs and hoofing through dance routines with a huge grin."
"This musical was never subtle. The plot barely fills the first number, "Any Dream Will Do", and Joseph himself is really irritating. The songs tick off musical genres — country and western, rock, chanson, calypso — as they go. Rice's lyrics and Lloyd Webber's melodies are deceptively simple but worm their way into your brain. The lack of pretension is the key. Laurence Connor's production celebrates the absurdity of somersaulting kids wearing biblical beards, and a Hebrew confronted with a Parisian dance routine moaning: "I said Canaan, not Can-Can!" "
Ann Treneman, The Times
"Jac Yarrow is a great Joseph. He's 21, from Cardiff, and straight out of the Arts Educational School. Now he has the dressing room at the Palladium where Judy Garland once lounged."
"The Narrator is played by the musical megastar Sheridan Smith with an achingly irritating amount of tomfoolery. Cute eye rolls. Little fist pumps. Knowing mouth grimaces. I wanted to strangle her by the end of the first half."
"It's a kitsch set by Morgan Large. Jason Donovan is full-on camp-tastic as Pharaoh in golden loincloth and sparkly trainers. The choreography (JoAnn M Hunter) feels wooden at times and the camels (with wheels) are just ropey."
Tim Bano, The Stage
"Lloyd Webber and Rice wrote it for a school choir. It makes so much sense for children, and for a childlike sense of fun and innocence, to be the driving force. It gives the show a purpose that a lot of other stale productions have failed to find."
"The design sort of builds from nothing; at the start it's a couple of sheets hung up by the corners to look like sand dunes. By the interval, we've got 10ft tall, gold-plated, guitar-playing sphinxes – the power of the children's imagination. There are starbursts of rainbow colours, unsubtle and childlike, matching those qualities in Lloyd Webber's music."
"Connor really does not know what to do with the women in the ensemble. There's an equal gender split – great – and a really diverse cast, too – also great – but the men get to play actual characters, while the women have nothing to do except being never fully clothed and dancing sexily."
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
"No one can argue that Joseph – which owes as much to Butlins, you feel, as the Bible – possesses immense sophistication. Or that it had the subversion as Hair, which came to London the same year as that first try-out (1968). Yet, free from the shackles of deference, and boldly making use of a through-sung format, it marched to the same anything-goes counter-cultural tune of the time."
"You think Yarrow has walked off with the show, then up rises Donovan's Pharoah amid MGM-levels of gilded pomp and milks every over-extended moment of his Elvisy rock number, hip-thrusting with a machismo that belies his feline Egyptian eye-shadow."