Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice which retells the biblical story of Joseph via the medium of song and dance. I saw Joseph in May 2010 at the Alhambra theatre in Dunfermline and the show tours around various UK venues. To be honest I had no idea what the show was about before I went along having received a pair of tickets for my birthday so I will give a brief plot synopsis for those who do not know the story.
Joseph is one of Jacob’s 12 sons and being the youngest he is the favourite and is presented with a special coat of many colours by his old dad. The brothers are not too happy that Joseph is the favourite and plot to get rid of him and sell him as a slave to passing Egyptians telling their broken hearted father that he was killed by a wild animal with the blood stained coat being the proof of his demise. Joseph had always had prophetic dreams and a talent for interpreting the dreams of others which is eventually noticed by the pharaoh. Will this talent lead to Joseph reaching the greatness that his father had always believed was his destiny or will he die a slave?
To be honest now that I know what the plot is about it seems like a highly improbable story and one that would not work well as a musical. The whole show is sung, there is no spoken dialogue or straight acting at all. It’s got to be said that the show is a bit tongue in cheek with some deliberately dodgy props such as a camel with rolling eyes and blow up sheep. There are many styles of music and song employed throughout the show ranging from a song called "One More Angel In Heaven" sung in the style of a barn dance, The "Benjamin Calypso" where the actors come out decked up as if they were in the Caribbean and Elvis even makes an appearance. Of course the most famous song is "Any Dream Will Do" made famous by Jason Donovan which is a rather bland and inoffensive pop ditty with the "Joseph Megamix" at the end sounding like it should be played at a rave.
The part of Joseph is currently played by Craig Chalmers and the ads for the show proudly proclaim that he was in the BBC TV show "Any Dream Will Do " which was a talent show for choosing the actor to play the part, what it did not tell you was that Chalmers never won but actually came fifth! Having said that he played the part really well, he had a slightly shaky start when he came out but as the show progressed he bounded around the stage singing at the top of his lungs and dancing around with gusto and I especially liked his performance of some of the more emotional songs with his smooth voice particularly suited to the slower melodies. I have only two quibbles about him, the first is that he has the worst haircut I have ever seen and the second was that when he was bouncing around in a loincloth that for some reason he reminded me of Rocky from the Rocky Horror Picture Show!
Joseph is supported by a large cast of actors, a mention must go to Rachael Louise Miller who sings the narration perfectly. It is unusual for a musical to be so male dominated but this one centres round the twelve brothers and Jacob, each brother played his role with gusto. The women when they did appear were also brilliant. There was a chorus of insufferably cute kids which for the touring production had been plucked from the local private primary school choir and I suppose they sang well enough but I really don’t think having a bunch of precocious little brats on stage really added much to the production and oddly for kids from an Edinburgh school they sung in a Cockney accent some of the time!
I had problems I keeping up with the story and action as there was so much going on at certain times that it was a real assault on the senses. The Alhambra stage is meant to be one of the largest stages in Scotland and it only just contained the army of actors and the chorus so I imagine this show would be best seen in one of the huge London theatres. The stage was so busy with movement at times that it became just too much and I found some of the scenes where there was a solo performance were much better.
Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a huge production full of life and song and although I enjoyed the performance it would certainly not rate as the best musical I have ever seen. It does have good acting and a couple of catchy songs but to be honest some of the songs are very easily forgettable. It is an odd mish mash of styles and sounds and to be honest I can’t understand why it is such a huge hit.
For tour dates and prices see the official Joseph website http://www.josephthemusical.com/index.php