Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
The Rice-Lloyd Webber machine has done it again. This revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is raking it in, having assured itself of success with an army of ready-made fans through the BBC's Any Dream Will Do search for a new West End Star. Indeed last night's auditorium was packed full of ten-year-old girls who were cheering long before the curtain even went up. So much so that it's already taken in an estimated Â£10 million at the box office and has extended booking through to next June, and the thought is enough to make me feel quite queasy.
The general look and feel of the production is more suited for a school production than the West End; the set is cheap and most of the props and costumes look like they came from a charity shop. However, the visual gaudiness is nothing compared to the tedious repetitive tunes; much of the music sounding as though it was pre-recorded on one of those child-friendly electric pianos. Some of the songs also sounded suspiciously similar to those that had been playing in the Adelphi not so long ago for Evita.
The children's choral, on stage throughout, were the only genuinely heart-warming thing about the production, although I worry about their long-term mental health and imagine they will suffer from the terrible fate of having these melodies stuck in their heads for the next 20 years.
Although the second half picked up slightly, all the songs still sounded the same and by this time the 10 year olds singing along next to me had started to seriously grate. While Lloyd-Webber has a gift for the pastiche, this play has passed it's sell-by-date, the campness no longer feels fresh, and the religious story is old fashioned and out of place. The only moment that felt at all exciting was the finale re-hashing of the songs into a "mega mix," partly because this was a genuine 80's throwback and the actors all showed more life and energy than in any of the previous scenes and partly because it meant it was finally ending. I left regretting the two and a half hours of my life I will never get back and am quite certain that not only did I lose a significant number of brain cells but also a large part of my sanity in the process.
What the popular press had to say.....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "It offers a seductive blend of camp, kitsch." RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Lee Mead ...Lacking in character and with a tendency to give out towards the end of a line, his voice is not the world's greatest...But Mead more than fulfils the requirements, with a mop of dark curls, a wholesome, sweet manner, and a way of filling a pleated loincloth that will appeal to all sexes...A Joseph virgin, I enjoyed myself far more than I thought possible at a Lloyd Webber show." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "The late Steven Pimlott's 1991 Palladium production...had a heart and soul whereas everything about this revival seems either cutesy, camp or calculated." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "Lee Mead...turns out to be both talented and enthusiastic...With spoofs of country music, calypso and even Piaf added to the mix, the show is a reminder of how splendidly versatile Lloyd Webber can be. Nor has Rice written jauntier lyrics." LISA MARTLAND for THE STAGE says, "Rice and Lloyd Webber's score remains as infectious as ever." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Lee Mead...looks good in a loin cloth, and has a powerful and expressive voice...By the end, however his vocals were beginning to sound a touch frayed."
Production photos by Tristram Kenton
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