Image by Mark Yeoman
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
Palace Theatre, Manchester
Until Saturday 21st October, 2017
First staged back in 1979, Bill Kenwright’s touring production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has become something of an institution over the years, and continues to break records to this day, having now sold an estimated 15 million tickets and played over 15,000 performances.
Since its premiere in 1970 Joseph has long been established as one of the most endearing and beloved shows in the musical theatre canon, though in recent years its family friendly appeal has seen the show creep ever closer to pantomime territory, and that is unfortunately where this production now finds itself.
Led by an excellent Joe McElderry as Joseph (amongst the strongest vocal performers to have played the role) and an incredibly impressive Trina Hill as the Narrator, the ensemble cast are very strong indeed, but they deserve a much stronger production than the cartoonish version they find themselves in.
Sean Cavanagh’s familiar set and costume designs are as bright and bold as ever, with the trusty inflatable sheep still miraculously intact! The famous multipurpose pyramid staircase remains at the core, framed by stone columns and rich green palm trees, though where the production falls down is in the numerous panto-style gimmicks and devices that dumb down an otherwise strong production.
Combined with a simple, direct narrative, Joseph‘s visual and musical innovation has always been more than enough to fill its concise two hour duration, but this production sees the bizarre and unnecessary introduction of talking camels, motorbikes, thought bubbles and a number of jokes and ad-libs that mostly just fall flat.
Incorporating an eclectic mix of musical styles, Lloyd-Webber’s unique score (expanded from the original 20-minute ‘pop cantata’ first performed at Colet Court School in 1968) feels something of a spotters guide nowadays, with a number of orchestrations and musical cues found in the score later reused or reworked into future, larger scale works (Jesus Christ Superstar being the most notable of which).
Featuring the likes of Any Dream Will Do, the Elvis-inspired Song of the King, the country-themed One More Angel In Heaven and the show-stopping Close Every Door, it is no wonder Joseph‘s rich songbook is so beloved. Thankfully, musical director Danny Belton and a very strong band do it full justice.
All in all it is a production most certainly driven by its cast, though performances aside there are a number of issues that need ironing out, and sluggish scene changes, issues with the show curtain, and no fewer than seven missed microphone cues didn’t help matters on press night.
Running Time: 2 hours and 5-minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.
Final Performance at the Palace Theatre, Manchester: Saturday 21st October, 2017
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