Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues at Bridlington Spa until 21 March and then tours until 6 June 2015.
If the number of people claiming to have been at Woodstock had actually been there, the toilets would have emptied into the Hudson. So it is with the 1970s Leicester production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The Haymarket would need to have been the size of the Colosseum.
Yes, you guessed it, I was there, and saw the first production of the show in its sung-through form. What I missed then, but see now, is just how predictive it was of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical style: the witty lyrics, the catchy tunes, even the organ power chords of Phantom are all present.
Directed and produced by Bill Kenwright, who certainly knows how to give audiences value for money, this version uses talent thrown up by TV programmes: Amelia Lily (Narrator) from X Factor; Matt Brinkler (Joseph) from US reality show Rockstar Academy; Matt Lapinskas (Pharaoh/Gad) from EastEnders. Lloyd Daniels, also from X Factor, should have played Joseph, but was unavailable on the evening I saw the show.
Lily’s singing is fine and, as Narrator, she keeps the plot moving smoothly. She interacts confidently with the chorus of children who, as ever, are on stage throughout, and get one of the biggest cheers of the evening.
Audiences always give stand-ins a generous measure of support, but it was not necessary for Brinkler’s Joseph. Perhaps he is a little too endearing at the beginning, when we need to see that Joseph can be an objectionable big-head (to make his brothers’ antagonism credible), but he has the necessary pathos later and I got the impression he was more than acceptable in a loincloth.
The show is, of course, one for the boys. Joseph’s brothers sing and dance energetically (choreography by Henry Metcalfe, who also plays Jacob and Potiphar) and take their chances to shine periodically as the solos fall to them.
The girls, on the other hand, are somewhat dismissively listed under ‘Handmaidens’ in the programme and have to fight hard for stage presence. None succeeds more devastatingly than Camilla Rowland as the ravishing Mrs Potiphar.
Sean Cavanagh’s set and Nick Richings’ lighting are as garish as you would expect for a show that has the word Technicolor in the title. If they ensure an eyeful for the audience, musical director Tim Whiting delights the ears.
I was swept along by the songs and the production in Act I, but then hit a brick wall at the beginning of Act II. I admit I am no fan of the flabby-rhinestone-onesie persona that Elvis adopted after ‘Jailhouse Rock’, but there is something wrong with the music too. The songs given to Lapinskas as Pharaoh are disconsonant with the rest of the score and jar alarmingly, particularly ‘King of My Heart’, that was added in 2007.
We are back on track with the ‘The Brothers Come to Egypt/Grovel’ and the ‘Joseph Megamix Reprises’ has the audience clapping along and singing, although perhaps the indulgence of the false ending has now run its course.
The acid test though is: did the audience leave the theatre whistling and humming the tunes? Of course they did, but they actually went in whistling and humming them too. I think that may be a definition of success in musical theatre.
Readers may also be interested in:
Interview – Lloyd Daniels on tour in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
News – Amelia Lily cast as the Narrator in Joseph tour
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. Hope is playing the iconic role of Maria von Trapp in a new touring production of The Sound of Music.