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Review of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Richmond Theatre

Joe McElderry in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Joe McElderry in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (c) Mark Yeoman.

Just as there are sound reasons why certain shows are rarely performed, there are other shows that keep reappearing and have an enduring commercial success. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor® Dreamcoat falls firmly into the second category. The set isn’t bad at all for a touring production – almost completely devoid of video projections, there’s staging, costumes and props of various shapes and sizes to be admired, combined with some mesmerising lighting (Nick Richings).

I must admit to never having seen a production of Joseph before – I had nothing against a show I had never seen, but for whatever reason it didn’t hold much appeal. It will, as most stage adaptations of classical stories do, upset the purists to an extent – I couldn’t quite follow where the story was going in the second half, what with Elvis-esque numbers (and there are a lot of unsubtle references to lyrics in Presley’s back catalogue) and a scene set in Paris, complete with a silhouette of the Eiffel Tower lighting up the rear of the stage.

The show was once described to me as ‘the same two tunes over and over again’. I cannot help but disagree with this assessment – there’s country and western, a gospel choir number, and the famous ‘Close Every Door’ is a torch song if ever there was one. Joe McElderry as Joseph has considerable stage presence, and a commanding vocal. I am not, generally speaking, in favour of so-called celebrity casting – even the pre-show announcement about turning mobile telephones off made mention of McElderry’s participation in a previous series of The X-Factor. This is, however, a
performer who does deserve to have the lead role in this production.

The Narrator (Trina Hill) has a smooth vocal, and a likeable one at that. The audience is introduced to each of Joseph’s eleven brothers, but there is little to separate them characteristically. That, of course, is the point of the story: Joseph was singled out by Jacob (Henry Metcalfe), which caused resentment amongst his siblings. There’s a simplification of Jacob’s story in order to concentrate on Joseph – neither of his two wives are listed as characters in the programme, for instance.

Hearing the various colours of the ‘dreamcoat’ through song has a certain charm, even if ‘lilac’ is apparently a different sort of violet than ‘violet’, and ‘mauve’ and ‘purple’ are thrown in too. It all fits in well, though, with an overall vibrant production, still coming across as fresh rather than dated – but then, what is a few decades on a story thousands of years old? A sizeable children’s choir, comprised of members of The Young Set Theatre Company, a Teddington-based theatre school, added further flair and exuberance to the proceedings.

Joseph suffers a huge miscarriage of justice. That a story like his should have some relevance to what has happened to certain people in our supposedly more sophisticated and egalitarian society is nothing short of saddening. But, stick it out to the end of the plot, and – call it divine providence, call it karma, call it just desserts – honesty and integrity pay off.

The sound levels were not always perfect, and in a briskly-paced show, there were one or two lyrics that unfortunately were indecipherable from my vantage point. While the choreography isn’t, to be blunt, as good as it could have been, there are moments of humour that penetrate through proceedings. Of the musicians, only musical director Danny Belton is credited in the programme. Bits from the encore were themselves encored, which I found a teeny weeny bit overkill, but the audience seemed to enjoy it, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s tunes are memorably hummable. An energetic and enthusiastic evening for all the family.

4 stars

Review by Chris Comaweng

Having enjoyed sensational reviews, Bill Kenwright’s “Amazing”, “Superb”, “Wonderful” and “Brilliant” production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sparkling family musical continues to enjoy huge success across the country with standing ovations at every performance.

Retelling the Biblical story of Joseph, his eleven brothers and the coat of many colours, this magical musical is full of unforgettable songs including Those Canaan Days, Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door To Me.

Joe was just 18 when he won the sixth series of The X Factor in 2009 and immediately went straight to number one on the UK Singles Charts with his debut single The Climb. He has since gone on to have three top ten albums, as well as notching up two more reality TV show victories, winning ITV’s Pop Star to Opera Star and Channel 4’s The Jump.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Tue 10 – Sat 14 Oct 2017
Richmond Theatre, Richmond, London

Tue 17 – Sat 21 Oct 2017
Palace Theatre Manchester, Manchester

Tue 24 – Sat 28 Oct 2017
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

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