Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice – music and lyrics

Joseph – Lee Mead
Narrator – Preeya Kalidas
Pharaoh – Dean Collinson
Jacob/ Potiphar / Guru – Stephen Tate
Reuben – John Alastair
Reuben’s wife – Emma Harris
Simeon – Mark Oxtoby
Simeon’s wife – Sarah Meade
Levi – Ricky Rojas
Levi’s wife – Jennifer Ashton
Napthali – Nathaniel Morrison
Napthai’s wife / Mrs Potiphar – Verity Bentham
Issacher / Baker – Adam Pearce
Issacher’s wife – Emily Mascarenhas
Asher – James Bisp
Asher’s wife – Fiona Reyes
Dan – Paul Basleigh
Dan’s wife – Lucie Downer
Zebulun/ Apache dancer – Craig Scott
Gad/ Butler – Russell Walker
Gad’s wife – Pippa Raine
Benjamin – Tom Gillies
Benjamin’s wife – Danielle Young
Judah – Neal Wright
Judah’s wife – Tamlyn Platts
Swings – Kate Alexander, Tyman Boatwright, Simon Coulthard, Pip Jordan, Jonathan Stewart, Kate Tydman

The Carmel Thomas Youth Singers

Steven Pimlott – Original director
John Clarke – Resident director
Mark Thompson – Production designer
Anthony van Laast – Choreographer
Andrew Bridge – Lighting designer
Mick Potter – Sound designer
Simon Lee – Musical supervisor
John Cameron – Orchestrator
Daniel Bowling – Musical director

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 18 July, 2007
Venue: Adelphi Theatre, London

Joseph in his new coat. Photograph by Tristram Kenton © The Really Useful Group Ltd 2007Nearly forty years ago two aspiring young musicians put together “Joseph and the amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, a twenty-minute pop cantata for an end-of-term concert at Colet Court Boys’ School in the City of London. After the initial performance composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice expanded the piece and it duly played at various venues around London, including Central Hall, Westminster, the Roundhouse, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Young Vic. In 1973 it opened in the West End at the Albery Theatre with Gary Bond in the title role, running for 243 performances.

It was regularly revived with pop singers such as Jess Conrad and Paul Jones. Then it was still a fairly small-time, low-key production. In 1991, however, Lloyd Webber decided to stage his own production and engaged Steven Pimlott to direct. Much thought went into the look of the production, which had the air of a child’s guide to the Bible, a fact reflected in Mark Thompson’s picture-book designs. It also used a big name in Jason Donovan for the title role and over the years this was shared between Donovan and the then children’s-television-presenter Philip Schofield. It ran for over two-and-a-half years and became the London Palladium’s longest running show. It went to Broadway and ran for 824 performances and went on to appear in over eighty US cities and thirteen other countries, has had at least twelve cast albums, and some 20,000 school and local productions to date. It still appears in more than 500 amateur productions every year in the UK and over 750 in the US and Canada, as well as other countries.

The narrator and the brothers. Photograph by Tristram Kenton © The Really Useful Group Ltd 2007For the current production, now revived on the strength of the television audition show, “Any Dream Will Do”, Lloyd Webber has taken Steven Pimlott’s production and ‘upgraded’ it. What was once a nice little show is now a big, brassy production, all shiny and bright, colourful and light and smacking totally of commercialism. It now seems merely a cynical act of hype over talent. The leading man, Lee Mead, won the part from the TV audience but, like Connie Fisher of “The Sound of Music” fame, he’s no novice, having already appeared in other shows, including ‘Joseph’. But, then, an amateur with no experience would not be able to hold the stage as well as he does. And, of course, the audience just loves him because he (from off the telly) is what they have come to see. After the reception for Connie Fisher, I never expected to hear anything quite so loud again, but if anything, the applause for ‘Joseph’ was even louder, verging on the painful to the ears. Obviously, another star is born.

After forty years the show can do no wrong. Don’t go expecting to take it as a serious piece of music-theatre. The only serious thing about it is its ability to coin in the cash and there’s nothing wrong in that because it’s obviously what the (non-theatre-) going public wants to see. There are still a few reminders left of what a sweet little show it once was. The Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber pastiche songs retain their wit in the style of rock ‘n’ roll (Pharaoh is more King in his Elvis impersonation) and country and western – at one point we seem to be in a production of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” – but it all seems to have got out of hand and a slight story about Joseph and his brothers has got lost among all the razzmatazz.

Joseph. Photograph by Tristram Kenton © The Really Useful Group Ltd 2007Lee Mead as Joseph, perhaps chunkier than previous incumbents, can do no wrong as he gets a reception of Valentino proportions, and is quite at home in the role, exuding a natural confidence born of experience. Preeya Kalidas as the Narrator is not the sisterly girl next door type one expects of a teacher figure, but more of a showgirl. Dean Collinson’s Pharaoh is completely over the top and completely takes over the show in ‘King of My Heart’, the new song written for this production, and one that should be another whopping hit for the writers. The large cast is drilled to perfection and really does enter into the spirit of the show, which at times seems like an evangelical revivalist meeting.

Anthony van Laast’s inventive and energetic choreography threatens to bring the house down while Mark Thompson’s tongue-in-cheek designs provide much of the humour. Whether the original director, the late Steven Pimlott who died earlier this year, would have approved is another matter. Anyway, it’s bound to run forever.

  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is currently booking until 7 June 2008
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