Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London until 2 November and then continues its tour.
Playing during the school half-term, this colourful and fun production of the long-running Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical collaboration was perfect pre-Xmas fare for all the family. Indeed for much of the two and half hours Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs to, it feels like a proper pantomime, complete with charismatic hero, plenty of villians and the feel-good factor running right through.
It’s the synergy of the impressive male singing and dancing ensemble that really drives this production from the first minute to the last, its ever energetic and always smiling members having clearly honed their skills during the tour pre-Wimbledon. Fronted by Ian ‘H’ Watkins, ex of Steps of course, they have a Joseph to work off who has very competent vocal ability, a disarming charm and a lighthearted demeanour which the younger audience members certainly warm to straight away, There maybe something of the children’s TV presenter about Watkins that makes you want to reach for some sticky back plastic every time he comes on stage, but there’s no denying his enthusiasm for this role and he pulls it off with some aplomb, dressed in everything from minimalist gold loin cloth to his impressive, expansive iconic Technicolor Dreamcoat – a garment which makes enough re-appearances during the evening to necessitate a good iron between shows.
Other real bonuses here are the top quality and inventive, if slightly over-the-top, sets and costumes, both of which add a big production feel to the show, while touches of humour are deftly added throughout – I think I even detected a fleeting homage to legendary sand dancers Wilson, Keppel and Betty. The show’s classic songs are all performed with palpable feeling and enthusiasm, not least ‘One More Angel in Heaven’, belted out by Joseph’s band of brothers. When left on stage on his own, to sing ‘Close Every Door’, Watkins can feel well satisfied with his take on one of the show’s stand-out tunes.
Amid all the high-jinks and ebb and flow dramas on stage, there’s the unfazed figure of choreographer and associate director Henry Metcalfe, playing Jacob with a becalmed assuredness that only comes with years of experience. Add in the vocal talents of narrator Jennifer Potts, who struts around the stage like a singing schoolmistress almost cajoling the cast to give their best, plus the hip-swivelling, full-throttle performance of Las Vegas era-suited (with hieroglyphics) Luke Jasztal as an ‘Elvis’ pharaoh king, and it’s a case of just sitting back and soaking up this production’s irresistible fun factor. The reprise section at the end needs to be trimmed down a bit – and someone needs to tweak the sound system as some serious intermittent speaker crackling threatened to spoil the finale. It didn’t though, nowhere near.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is currently on a national tour. Ian ‘H’ Watkins will appear in the show until 9 November. The tour continues until 5 Janaury, 2014.