Reviewed by Alex Foott
Performance date – Tuesday 29th October 2013
As that festive behemoth known only as Pantomime begins its steady crawl across the British Isles, ready to smother the country with its glittering chassis, any means of escape becomes increasingly futile. Thankfully, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat provides something of an alternative to the catcalls and gender crossing actors that plague the winter months. Lloyd Webber’s first public musical has adapted some of its style to appease an audience of children and fair-weather friends of the theatre. This is not the show to watch if you are a seasoned connoisseur of the theatre yet it holds charm enough for the theatrically inexperienced. With a universally celebrated score and a cast of ebullient performers, this show is sure to haul in the crowds as it embarks on its UK tour.
Joseph, in a playful perversion of the biblical tale, is his father Jacob’s favourite son. In a glaring act of favouritism, Jacob bestows a beautiful technicolor coat upon Joseph, much to his eleven brothers’ annoyance. At their envious hands, he is sold to a group of Ishmaelites as a slave. As they transport him to Egypt, the brothers return to their father and tell him that Joseph has been killed. On arrival in Egypt, Joseph wins the affections of his master Potiphar yet is thrown in prison when Potiphar’s wife seduces him. News of Joseph’s aptitude for interpreting dreams spreads across the land, and needing his assistance, the Pharaoh sends for him. Thus begins Joseph’s journey to redemption.
The cast delivers something of a pendulum performance, swinging unpredictably between disinterest and brilliance. There are undoubtedly moments of sparkle particularly with the chorus of brothers providing ridiculous masculinity that fetches wave upon wave of laughter. Jennifer Potts, as the narrator, carries the piece effortlessly, striking a natural rapport with the audience and carrying us along the plot with her beautiful, tinkling soprano. The choir of children who sit in clusters about the stage give this production an adorably cherubic simplicity and their artless interaction with Potts is truly touching. The overly literal choreography is initially irksome though once we have ascertained the puerile tone of the show, it is clear that this is simply a device that translates the plot to a younger audience. Sadly, the weak link in the chain is none other than the star, Ian ‘H’ Watkins. His pop voice lacks the strength required for those iconic ballads and his acting is awkwardly directed toward the audience. Equally, Luke Jasztal falls flat as the Elvis-inspired Pharaoh. There is very little of his legendary physicality and only a loose depiction of his unique vocals, resulting in a rather limp portrayal.
While Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is, for all intents and purposes, a wonderful diversion for the general public, it cannot compete with the polished standard of the West End. Its unrelenting encores have a strangely intoxicating effect upon the lively audience that will hopefully entice this wider audience to make regular trips to the theatre.
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed by Bill Kenwright
Choreographed by Henry Metcalfe