NOTE: The cast has now changed!!!
Any child of the 70’s knows the music to Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Back then I was a rabid fan and remember driving my parents insane by insisting on playing the LP again and again and again. Now when I listen I cannot help but feel that the show is quaint and slightly old fashioned. A musical based around a Bible story written for children, a kind of Sunday school pop concert.
However, I fear that last remark merely shows my age. If Joseph seems quaint and slightly old fashioned it is because I am no longer a pre-teen hearing the music for the first time. 30 years of hearing the music on and off is bound to make it feel slightly stale, after all we are not talking about an all time classic. We are talking about a family musical show, by a composer and a lyricist at the very beginning of their long and prestigious careers, which was written for Colet Court School end of term show. The success of what Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote surprised them and what was a 25-minute musical was over the next 4 years fleshed out to become the “Joseph” musical that has become so popular.
The Book of Genesis is full of great Bible stories, and the story of Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers and who eventually, by a circuitous route, becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man is one of the best. Add to this some catchy tunes that are guaranteed to have children clapping in their seats and you have a family musical that is sure to be a hit.
We have a Pharaoh who is an Elvis-Presley impersonator and simply rocks the house with his song “Pharaoh’s Story”. A hot gospel “Go Go Go Joseph” and a Parisian ballet “Those Canaan days”, and a lively “Benjamin Calypso”. On top of this there are the catchy tunes of “One more Angel in Heaven”, “Any DreamWill Do” and “Close Every Door” to name a few.
The cast buzzes with energy and exuberate an innocent atmosphere of captivating merriment. The humour is simple, and whilst it may not have parents chuckling in their seats neither will it leave them cringing with embarrassment. There were two stars of the show. Trevor Jary is excellent as the Pharaoh who likes to rock around the clock. He looks and sounds like Elvis Presley and the audience immediately warmed too his hip jiggling, mike swinging antics. Stephen Gately gives an excellent performance as Joseph, he looks and sounds like a musical theatre star. His strong lyrical voice is perfect for the songs and he still has the young cheeky boyish grin that makes his Joseph look dashing without appearing the slightest bit vain.
The stage setting is lavish, with large statues of Egyptian gods, a huge pharaoh mask with flashing green eyes and a mouth that mimes the words of “Poor Poor Joseph”. Unfortunately this evening there were problems with the special effects and so the show went ahead with many of the stage design effects not operating. Bill Kenwright, the producer and director of this production offered the audience free tickets to return and see the show when the special effects are fully operational. For myself, I thought the stage and costumes where lavish enough, and did not feel that the show was any the worse for the missing special effects.
What other critics had to say.....
LYN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says,"Full of bare-faced cheek and a highly developed sense of fun." IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES says, "His [Stephen Gately] beaming smile can’t hide what is slender material overstretched to two acts." SARAH HEMMING of FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Enjoyably brash and cheeky staging." NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Stephen Gately..makes an underwhelming theatrical debut." PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Wonderfully warm-hearted, scenically lavish, and deliriously droll revival." JOHN MARTLAND for THE STAGE says, "An enjoyable experience ....top-notch production."
External links to full reviews from popular press