Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues at Blackpool Opera House until 13 February and tours until 9 July 2016.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
A whole generation of theatregoers has grown up expecting to see at least one winner, runner-up or near miss from Britain’s Got Talent or The X Factor fronting their favourite touring musical.
So imagine their delight on discovering the winner of the latter’s sixth series – namely Joe McElderry – had been teamed up with the runner-up from BGT’s 2014 competition, Lucy Kay, in her musical theatre debut.
Alas the best laid plans of, in this case, director Bill Kenwright were not to be. Not on the opening night of the show’s latest return to the resort’s biggest theatre at least.
While diminutive in stature but powerful in voice McElderry received an extremely warm reception for his speedy return to the resort (he was last here in October 2015 in the title role of Tommy the Rock Opera), fans of the classically trained soprano Kay were left with no explanation about her no show.
Thankfully, the gap was ably filled by understudy Samantha Noel whose mercurial rise from Handmaiden to Narrator could well be matched by her future rise from backing vocals to headliner if her ability to carry this deceptively influential role is anything to go by.
There’s little new to be said about the show itself – hardly surprising after around 35 years of performances and 20 million tickets sold – though the accidental keeling over of a stuffed sheep did provide a rare ‘check your flies’ comedy moment.
The musical’s evolvement from school production to worldwide smash (and back to schools) is well chronicled but the cleverness of Tim Rice’s early lyrics (it did, of course, precede the heavier Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita) are easily under-rated. He and Andrew Lloyd Webber clearly had a hoot mixing musical styles. Come on, how many Old Testament hoe downs and calypsos do you know – and how come if Joseph’s 11 brothers are so near to starvation they scoff some of the onions they’re wearing from the French-style ‘Those Canaan Days’.
As a diversion it’s always fun counting the brothers – especially when, like Emilianos Stamatakis, they have to double up. In his case to milk the dream role of Pharaoh and his Elvis tribute act. Always a winner.
Kelvin Towse’s musical direction sometimes drowns the lyrics – particularly on the bigger numbers, and the set and costumes are looking a little travel weary, but once the endearing McElderry lets rip such other niceties can be overlooked. The X Factor in his case proves Britain has got talent.
* Readers may also be interested in:
In rehearsal – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Behind-the-scenes videos from the Joseph rehearsals can be seen on the Musical Theatre Review YouTube channel.
NB. The article and videos immediately above feature Danielle Hope as the Narrator.