When the latest Bill-Kenwright produced tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat opens this week at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, it will be the first time there has been THREE big names above the title. Both making their musical theatre debuts are X Factor finalist Lloyd Daniels in the title role and Matt Lapinskas (formerly of EastEnders, Dancing On Ice finalist) as Pharaoh, and they are joined by Danielle Hope as The Narrator (BBC’s Over the Rainbow, The Wizard of Oz, Les Misérables).
Just a few days ago we had the opportunity to join Kenwright, the three lead players, and the rest of the talented ensemble during their rehearsals in west London. Despite it being a sweltering day, they presented us with a showcase of several numbers from the production, plus there was time for an informal chat afterwards.
Kenwright’s affection for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical that he first worked on 35 years ago is clear to see: “It is the fiftieth time I have gone into rehearsal for Joseph. It must be an all-time record and a testament to the piece itself.
“It all started off 35 years ago when a tour of A Chorus Line had fallen to pieces and I put on Joseph for what I thought would be a week or ten days. The first licence was for two weeks – it went on to last eight years.
“There must have been tens of thousands of performers who have been introduced to the profession through the show, not to mention all the local choirs which have taken part (youngsters who made their stage debuts in the show and went on to careers in musical theatre). It has been an honour and privilege to have the rights.
“There will never be a show like this, where you can get everyone from a 3-year-old to a 83-year-old in the same wonderful state watching theatre.”
Danielle Hope, who recently played Eponine in the London production of Les Misérables and also debuted her one-woman show at the Delfont Room in London, also commented on how important she felt it was to take shows like Joseph to regional theatres: “On a personal note, it is a chance for my family and friends in Manchester to come and see me. It’s not always affordable for them go to London, which is of course true of lots of people.
“I’ve always wanted to go on tour, that was often how I got to see theatre when I was younger. Now it’s incredible to be performing on the same stage where I watched shows when I was growing up in Manchester.”
Having taken part in the sixth season of X Factor and the accompanying tour at the age of 16, Lloyd Daniels is already aware that his followers on social media have booked to see him in Joseph.
“Danielle, Matt and I have all been finalists in well-known TV shows. People know us from those but they haven’t always got the money to travel to see us. They are really looking forward to seeing us in Joseph.”
And what of his musical theatre debut? “I love that a theatre audience has respect for the material, they like to listen to the story. Hope this different step in my career will lead to other things.”
Also treading the musical theatre boards for the first time is Matt Lapinskas, known to soap fans as the actor who played Anthony Moon in EastEnders. In the rehearsal room, singing Pharaoh’s numbers, including the new song ‘King of My Heart’ added nearly four decades years after the show was first staged, he looks like a natural.
Lapinskas adds: “I have never done a musical, it’s the first time for me, and it’s so great to be part of such a brilliant cast. Some of the performers have done the show before, but there is no hierarchy, they have taken us on like a family. We just want it to be the best it can be.
“Danielle, Lloyd and I came into rehearsal a few days early to get started and we are always helping each other out. We’re like the three musketeers.”
Kenwright commented on how touring has got harder in some respects – he recently had to cancel the tour of Fame due to poor tickets sales: “The interest had gone, it was just so odd. Hopefully it was a one-off. Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t take shows off, so it was terrible to have to tell the cast, the creators of the production, the theatres it was touring to.
“There is still a market for shows on these kind of tours though. Just look at Evita, it’s just had its biggest tour ever, so the audience is there.”
Kenwright admitted that the invasion of the mega-musical on tour – Wicked, The Lion King – had meant that a number of venues of a certain size (Milton Keynes, Southampton etc) were booked up years in advance. However, he remains dedicated to 600 to 900-seater playhouses up and down the country that are finding it increasingly difficult to find the right kind of product.
“Great musicals will survive though,” he maintains, “Joseph was one of the very first tours and still remains a financial plus for touring venues that know it will sell out. Next year I will be touring another classic, The Sound of Music, in the 50th anniversary year of the movie being released.”
But in that rehearsal room a few days ago the “most beautiful biblical story of brotherly love and love conquering all” was the focus.
Says Kenwright: “I am known as a kitchen sink man because I will throw everything at a production, but the main focus is still the storyline, that has got to be crystal clear.”
Have a look at a fantastic selection of images from the rehearsal afternoon taken by Musical Theatre Review’s official photographer Roy Tan.
Behind-the-scenes videos from the Joseph rehearsals can be seen on the Musical Theatre Review YouTube channel.
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