Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Review
As the first collaboration between Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1967, the musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" has had a colourful history. Based on the Biblical story of Jacob and his 12 sons, it began as a 20 minute cantata for pupils at St. Paul's Junior School, later developed into a full scale theatre production for the Edinburgh Festival in 1972, transferring to London. Performed by schools and amateur companies worldwide over the years, a major London revival in 1991 with Jason Donovan turned the show into a major hit and best selling album.
For the 2007 revival, Andrew Lloyd Webber launched a nationwide talent contest on the BBC programme, "Any Dream will Do", to find a new, young Joseph - or two. Lee Mead was voted the winner for the role of Joseph for the London production, with Keith Jack, runner up and Craig Chalmers in the top five. (Keith and Craig are both from Edinburgh).
For this UK touring show, Craig is cast as Joseph and Keith as the narrator. The musical is through-sung like an opera, with the rhyming lyrics unveiling the storyline in fast paced action. The format is that of the narrator telling a story to children about the importance of dreams and relating the Coat of Many Colours biblical tale. Joseph is a dreamer but is teased and taunted by his eleven brothers who are jealous of him. As a favourite son, Jacob presents him with a multi coloured coat. The brothers banish him, selling him as a slave to an Egyptian merchant, Potiphar. The musical then follows his adventures to follow his dream and prove his true worth and destiny.
As a 70s rock opera, 21st century style, "Joseph" is given an outrageous, OTT glitzy, all singing, all dancing Broadway treatment. Centre stage is Keith Jack (narrator), just 19 years old, but virtually taking control of the show, scene by quick changing scene as he dashes up and down the glittering staircase, and telling the tale through a medley of songs. The clarity of his diction is impeccable and his smooth, eloquent voice is rich and captivating.
As Joseph, Craig Chalmers offers the handsome blond, bare-chested Bondi Beach look but doesn't quite have the dramatic qualities to conjure up any kind of emotion, even in his direst moments of despair. He can sing (and that's what it's all about) - one of the highlights is the classic number, "Close Every Door," enhanced with superb theatrical lighting.
Other notable performances include Maria Kaine as Mrs Potiphar, a long legged femme fatale seducing Joseph in a skimpy, sexy red dress and high heels. Great fun. The Four Handmaidens and all the brothers provide an energetic ensemble featuring some slick, high kicking dance routines and comedic sketches. Watch out for pop up woolly sheep, singing camels, Frenchmen in berets and an Elvis impersonator.
Adults of a certain age, be warned, this is a loud and raucous show and simply watching the youthful cast, bursting with enthusiasm, may leave you rather deaf and breathless. For the more cynical critic, the production style could be viewed as a show well past its sell by date (e.g. Elvis scene, disco dancing).
At the end, the full cast, rock refrain of "Any Dream will Do," /"Give me my coloured coat," numerous curtain calls and flowing technicolour dreamcoats, is in true pantomimic tradition - thus an alternative festive entertainment for all the family. From the cheers and applause, a near capacity audience at the Playhouse theatre was certainly enjoying a fabulous night out.
Times: Show runs til 13 January at Edinburgh Playhouse