Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the first Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical to be produced, is set to return to the London Palladium in the West End for the first time in over ten years. It’s a show with a huge legacy, having spring-boarded Rice and Webber who gained a reputation as one of the best musical writing teams there has ever been.
But as the musical returns to London, what can we expect from the new Palladium production?
How was the musical Joseph written?
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was in fact the second musical written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The 20-year-old lyricist Rice wrote to the 17-year-old composer, to say he had heard Webber was looking for a ‘with it’ writer of lyrics for his songs. The pair met, and immediately hit it off and wrote the musical The Likes Of Us, though it wasn’t produced for 50 years.
But their second creation would be the one to leave its mark. In 1967, the songwriting duo were approached by a family friend of Webber, head of music at a local school Alan Doggett, who asked the pair to present something that could be performed at an end-of-term concert, preferably with a religious theme. The following year, a 15-minute musical based on the story of Joseph and his father Jacob was performed at the school, which was quickly followed by a performance at Central Hall in Westminster.
They were clearly on to something big, and continued to work on the piece, eventually taking it to New York and then recording a concept album. Around this time, Webber and Rice’s third musical Jesus Christ Superstar was just getting off the ground and in August 1972 It opened at the Palace Theatre. Later that month, Josephwas presented by the Young Vic Company at Edinburgh International Festival, and it later moved to the Roundhouse in London, and later, the Albery Theatre in the West End.
It was still only a 35-minute production of the musical, but after some reworking – and a broadcast on Granada Television – the musical was produced in its full state in Leicester in 1974.
Joseph is based on the ‘coat of many colours’ story from the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Joseph had 12 sons, but favoured Joseph out of them all and gave him a colourful coat as a gift. The brothers are envious, and they become even more disgruntled when Joseph tells them of two dreams in which they all bowed down to him. Between them, they play to sell Joseph as a slave to merchants, and even murder him.
The musical also focusses on Potiphar, a rich Egyptian who buys Joseph to work in his household, and the Pharaoh, who sees something in Joseph, and presented in the musical as an Elvis-like figure.
Casting for the West End revival of Josephat the London Palladium is yet to be announced, but here are some notable actors to have played Joseph and the narrator in the past.
The “Puppy Love” singer was known across the world after his music career with his brothers shot him to fame, and in 1992, he starred in Joseph for 2,000 performances in the Toronto production. He later played the part in Chicago for just over a year, and was handpicked by Webber himself to star in the 1999 straight-to-video film version of the musical.
Having made a name for himself down under in the hit TV show Neighbours, becoming a well-known face before launching a pop career, which saw him duet with fellow Aussie and Neighbours co-star Kylie Minogue. In 1991, he took on the lead role in a restaged production at the Palladium, and his recording of “Any Dream Will Do” gave him his third UK number one.
To win the part of Joseph, Lee Mead had to win the hearts of the nation as he competed in ALW’s second BBC talent series to find his next star. Mead won the series Any Dream Will Do – following in Connie Fisher’s footsteps on How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? – and starred in a 2007 revival of the musical at the Adelphi Theatre.
Other notable Josephs: Philip Schofield, Ian “H” Watkins, Keith Jack, Stephen Gately, Joe McElderry
Will I know many songs from the musical?
Yes. One of the most notable songs from Joseph is opening number “Any Dream Will Do”. The song was a huge hit, with Donovan’s recording hitting number one in the UK and Ireland (and, curiously, number three in Austria).
Other big numbers include “Close Every Door”, which Joseph sings about his alleged relationship with Potiphar's wife, and act one closer “Go, Go, Go Joseph".