Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Lyrics by Tim Rice, Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Nothing about this revival of the perennially popular Joseph is done by halves. The staging, the choreography and the performance of Sheridan Smith, who leads the two-hour-long evening from the front, are all big—to the point of excess.
This must all seem remarkable to a pair of gentlemen who enjoyed the first night experience over 50 years ago after, as schoolboys, they conceived the show that kickstarted their careers, as result of which one has become a Knight and the other a Lord.
Director Lawrence Connor has deliberately created a production that is big and brash, never afraid to use loud colours, bright lights and loud music that now often has a disco edge.
At the centre of almost all of the action is Sheridan Smith in the role of the Narrator. The triple threat may now be heavily tattooed but she still oozes charm, taking every opportunity to engage the audience with the kind of nudges and winks that might have been more familiar in music hall days.
She also keeps the story moving along, popping up in numerous roles but never forgetting her audience.
The plot hardly needs retelling, thanks to its biblical roots and 50 years of stage exposure. The tale of a young man who loses everything at the hands of his 11 heavily bearded brothers, is imprisoned in a foreign country, becomes a trusted adviser and dream interpreter to “the King” and is eventually reunited with those who took away his wealth and power in the first place is ideal for a musical.
The nominal, eponymous star is Jac Yarrow, who probably can’t believe his luck having been plucked from drama school to front a show at the London Palladium before he has even enjoyed a graduation ceremony.
From the moment that he launches into “Any Dream Will Do”, the young Welshman acquits himself capably as the priggish brother thrown to the metaphorical wolves, at one point bringing the house down with his strong singing. So strong indeed that, in keeping with everything else on opening night, the front row of the audience stood up as one, as if choreographed to get their fellows going.
While these two are the stars of the evening, former Joseph, Jason Donovan, enjoys his cameo as a pharaonic Elvis Presley, much to the delight of his legions of fans.
A large cast backs the leads with verve and unbounded energy. The superb choreography from Joann M Hunter is frequently spectacular, though not always in keeping with the show’s biblical roots. Indeed, some of the most memorable dance moments include a tap routine, a calypso, a cancan and even an Israeli barn dance.
Both the adults and an enthusiastic children’s chorus throw themselves wholeheartedly into every song and dance routine, clearly having a whale of a time.
In addition to the razzmatazz, there is a great deal of wit, particularly in some elements of Morgan Large’s design, most memorably a couple of bicycling camels. His costumes are also spectacular, particularly a dazzling coat of many colours that looks as if it has been heavily influenced by video gaming culture.
Very little about this revival is subtle but that is unlikely to worry fans, most of whom will have loved the songs from childhood and relish the spectacle and the performances in an over-the-top evening that seems well-designed for the London Palladium.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher