Last weekend the kids, my mum, and I headed to the Theatre Royal in Nottingham to see the 2017 production of the longest-running touring show in history: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!
When I was in my teens (from the late 90’s to the early noughties), Joseph was, without a doubt, my favourite musical. My mum and dad took me to see it at the theatre whenever they could. And I loved the show so much that I learnt about its history, knew every word to every song, and spent years dreaming of one day playing the role of the narrator. I’m pretty sure it would have been my specialist subject had I ever gone on Mastermind!
Up until 2008(ish) every time I saw the show it had the most amazing cast, with Richard Swerrun being my all-time favourite Joseph. But then something happened to put me off going to see the musical for a long, long time: I took Stacey to see it for the first time and wasn’t at all impressed with the cast. Nor did I like the new song that had found its way into the second half of the show.
After that, I lost all interest in going to see Joseph as it felt like all the magic had gone. And it wasn’t until last year when I noticed my mum’s favourite singer, Joe McElderry, was taking over the lead role that I decided to bite the bullet and give the show another chance. And today I thought I’d share my thoughts on it with you guys. I hope you enjoy it.
WHAT IS JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT ALL ABOUT?
Set in Biblical times, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tells the story of ‘The Coat of Many Colours’ from the Book of Genesis. The 12th son of Jacob and his obvious favourite, Joseph is betrayed by his eleven jealous brothers and sold as a slave to some passing Ishmaelites who take him away to Egypt.
But don’t worry, the show is in no way forcing religion upon us. The story is told in a fun, lighthearted way by a narrator (who is on stage the whole time), with lots of jokes and laughter. The show has very little spoken dialogue and instead is almost completely sung-through. With its family-friendly storyline and catchy music, it’s the perfect musical for absolutely everyone to enjoy.
Joseph was originally written and performed as a school production back in 1968, and after all this time the show still includes a choir of 30+ children who, like the narrator, are on stage throughout the whole performance. In Nottingham, the choir was provided by AGF Performing Arts. I think it’s fantastic that children are still such a big part of the show, and I hope they never change this.
MY THOUGHTS ON JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
Well, where to start?! When I looked to see who was performing in Joseph along with Joe last week, I didn’t recognise any of the names. So it was a nice surprise to find that the Narrator was being played by Lucy Kay, who was the runner-up on the 2014 series of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. I believe that she grew up in a little town close to Nottingham, so it was nice to see some home-grown talent in the show. And boy, can Lucy sing! From the second the first note was sung, I knew she was going to be an amazing Narrator. She has the most beautiful smile as well. You can’t help but warm to her straight away.
Lucy opened the show along with 2 of the children from the choir wearing dressing gowns. She tells them a bedtime story through song of how some people dream of doing wonderous things during their time on the planet, whereas others just hide their heads in the sand. She then mentioned a boy whose dreams just happened to come true. And it’s here that we met Joseph.
I have to be honest now and say that although I knew who Joe McElderry was before we saw him in Joseph last weekend, I’d never really heard him sing. However, I was very impressed! Not only does he have a fantastic voice, but he also has lots of charisma. Like Lucy, you can’t help but warm to him.
As the show progresses, Joseph’s character changes quite significantly, and the way that Joe managed to portray each of these changes showed just what a marvellously versatile actor he is. He goes from being quite a cheeky chappy at the beginning of Act 1 to becoming a slave, a frightened prisoner, a confident dream interpreter, and finally, Pharoh’s number 2. In a nutshell, Joe makes you feel like you’re a close friend growing up with Joseph. You want him to do well and get the happy ending he deserves. It’s just fantastic to watch.
The rest of the cast were brilliant too. The musical is so fast-paced, and quite a few of them play more than one character, so they’re constantly on the go. Everyone up on stage just seemed to have an endless supply of energy – especially Joseph’s eleven brothers! As always, they came in all different shapes and sizes, yet the group dynamic worked really well.
Every time I see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat I find myself pleading with Benjamin to save his brother when the others are plotting to get rid of him. And this time I found myself doing it even more, as George Knapper, who currently plays him, shows him battling with his conscience more than I’ve noticed in the past. In fact, I think George is probably one of the best Benjamin’s I’ve ever seen. There was something quite vulnerable about him, and the mummy in me wanted to take him under my wing. I know I wasn’t alone in thinking that either as I overheard a few people say something similar as we were leaving the theatre after the show.
Can I just say how amazing the children from the AGF Performing Arts choir were? Not only did they produce some incredible harmonies, but they sat so beautifully on stage throughout the show as well. I don’t think I saw any of them fidgeting. I bet there was a lot of proud parents sat in the audience during Joseph’s run at the Theatre Royal last week!
As always, I thought the set for Joseph was fantastic. I like how everything is set up in a pyramid shape, and it’s all very colourful. Especially the costumes. I think this is probably what helped hold Oscar’s attention. He’s only 3 and he was sat on the edge of his seat throughout the whole performance, clapping enthusiastically in between numbers. I had expected him to enjoy the show, but if I’m honest I thought he might get a little bit fed up in the middle with him being so young. I needn’t have worried though, as he enjoyed it so much that he asked if we could go and see it again when it ended!
For me, Joseph has one of the most memorable scores of any musical. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, I guess you just can’t go wrong! I think you’d recognise quite a few of the songs even if you hadn’t been to see the show before. Songs like ‘Any Dream Will Do’, ‘Close Every Door’, and ‘Go, Go, Go, Joseph’. A lot of the songs have the same tunes, but with different words. And even though they managed to incorporate a few different musical styles into the show, such as country and western, rock n roll, and calypso, it flows beautifully. Or it did until they added in that dreadful ‘King of my Heart’ song back in 2007!
Now, I’m sure there will be many of you reading this who have seen Joseph before and will love the song. But as someone who had seen the show before it was added, I just can’t quite understand why it’s there. Portrayed in the style of Elvis, I used to think that Pharaoh was a strong character who everyone must like. He only appeared for a couple of songs during Act 2, but it was enough for him to be remembered. Yet since ‘King of my Heart’ was added I just find Pharaoh, well, weak. The first of his solos is just so damn fantastic, with a huge amount of swivelling hips and snarling lips that the second one falls flat in comparison. It’s such a shame.
It has to be said, I love a show with a happy ending, and Joseph most definitely doesn’t disappoint. I reckon it could bring a tear to the eye of even the toughest of people when Joseph and his father reunite. And he even got a nice new coloured coat that made the first one look like rags. Brilliant!
The other people of Nottingham seemed to enjoy the show too, as everyone was up on their feet and dancing along to the Joseph Megamix at the end. I wonder how many of them were still humming the tunes on their way home? I wouldn’t mind betting it was more than half!
After the disappointment of seeing Joseph last time, I’m pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the show this time around! It’s safe to say it’s made it back to the top spot of my favourite musicals, and I’d go and see it again tomorrow if I got the chance. My mum and the kids enjoyed it too, and we’ve all been singing along to the soundtrack this week. Yes, my mum treated herself to a new CD just because Mr McElderry was singing on it.
The cast had us laughing out loud throughout, and the addition of blow-up sheep and singing camels seemed to really make Oscar’s day! The look of pure amazement on his little face is proof that Joseph is the perfect first musical for little ones to see. The bright colours and catchy tunes are sure to capture their imagination, and it’s a lot of fun for us grown ups too. If you’re on the lookout for something serious and thought-provoking though, you’ll probably want to give it a miss, as I don’t think it’s really going to be for you.
If you can’t tell from all the gushing I’ve done so far, we had an absolutely fantastic night seeing the show, and I just want to say a big well done to all the cast and crew. You all did a brilliant job and should be very proud of yourselves. I hope you enjoy the rest of the tour as much as you clearly enjoying performing last Saturday.
The show is currently running at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 6th May 2017, before continuing on its tour around the UK. Tickets for the shows can be booked by clicking here.
Have you guys ever seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat before?
Let me know in the comments below!
*Tickets purchased with my own money