JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
Tour till 29 October 2022
BOX OFFICE 01752 267222
RUNNING TIME – 2 HOURS (INCLUDING INTERVAL)
27 APRIL 2022
The very first show one sees can have a lasting impression on the viewer. So, it is that I saw the original London West End production of JOSEPH in 1973. I was 11. It was the best thing ever. Having sung the original 30-minute cantata at school I knew the songs backwards. I was mesmerised by the show which starred the late Gary Bond in the title role.
Over the intervening years I have intermittently seen it with the likes of Philip Schofield and Stephen Gateley. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s work has been tinkered with considerably over the years and yet more has taken place with this production which started life in London in 2019.
The integration of a cast children into the show – playing specific parts as well, such as Potiphar – works fairly well and is a definite improvement on the rather saccharin watching choirs that adorned the stage in earlier versions. Giving the Narrator a number of other parts to play is not a success – it is messy. Alexandra Burke has plenty to do apart from tugging her ‘beard’ on and off to indicate if she is Jacob or Narrator – no, it’s tacky.
Production values are always worth looking at in this show and this is bold, colourful and fun – check out the hieroglyphics! It looks good and it sounds good: John Rigby and his orchestra throw the kitchen sink at the score and, although loud, there were remarkably few moments when I couldn’t hear what was being sung.
One of the highlights is the choreography. Hi-energy, inventive and hugely entertaining, this is super work from Joann M Hunter.
Although there are only a few roles which are central to the show there is excellent performances from many, not least Will Hawkesworth and Matt Gibson who throw themselves into their roles as Simeon and Reuben respectively – with an eye on the comedy and boundless enthusiasm.
The aforementioned Alexandra Burke commands the stage throughout; an and out of costumes and characters and telling the story as she goes. Her chemistry with the young cast and the audience is excellent and the quality of her singing is beyond reproach. It should be mentioned that she gives no ground to the fact she is very heavily pregnant.
After a sedate first half the show goes into overdrive with the arrival of Pharoah at the start of Act Two. Bobby Windebank is the best Pharoah I have seen – he sets the stage alight and is very, very funny – it is the performance of the night – yes, it’s a great part, but he squeezes everything out of it.
Jac Yarrow was plucked from drama school to play Joseph in London; it is a curiously charmless and bland performance, he barely breaks a smile until the end of the first half. He sings well enough but builds little or no chemistry with anyone and changes facial expression as if he is switching a light on or off – for much of the time he looked a little bored.
The emotional climax of the show is the reunion of Joseph and his Father, Jacob, but with the Narrator taking the role of Jacob, no connection is built up and so the joyful reconciliation at the end doesn’t happen. No heartstrings are pulled. You can tinker with a show too much sometimes, and this has happened here.
A curate’s egg of a production – some real heights and some real disappointments and when the title role is one of those disappointments then it does affect the production as a whole.
This is still a wonderful show though; 49 years on, I still remember the words. It is rather bonkers in many respects but it is playing to full houses and audiences are loving it, so it’s not all bad!
CAST & CREATIVES
NARRATOR – ALEXANDRA BURKE
JOSEPH – JAC YARROW
PHAROAH – BOBBY WINDEBANK
ISSACHER – SHANE ANTHONY- WHITELY
LEVI – JABARI BRAHAM
DAN – TYLER EPHRAIM
ASHER – ZAC FRIEZE
REUBEN – MATT GIBSON
SIMEON – WILL HAWKSWORTH
NAPHTALI – SAM STONES
BROTHER’S WIVES – ERICA-JAYNE ALDEN, GEMMA BUCKINGHAM, MEG DARCY, ABBIE PLATTS, ROCHELLE SHERONA, HOLLY WILLOCK
ENSEMBLE – BEN BROOKER, THALIA BURT, ALEXANDER DAY, IVAN FERNANDEZ GONZALEZ, SAMUEL JOHN-HUMPHREYS, CLAIRE LANDER, NATHAN RIGG, SAMANTHA SHUMA
MUSIC – ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER
BOOK & LYRICS – TIM RICE
DIRECTOR – LAURENCE CONNOR
CHOREOGRAPHER – JOANN M HUNTER
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – JOHN RIGBY
LIGHTING DESIGN – BEN CRACKNELL
SOUND DESIGN – GARETH OWEN
SET & COSTUME DESIGN – MORGAN LARGE