Billed as a family friendly musical, you’d be surprised to know that it was none other than the great Andrew Lloyd Webber who penned the score, along with lyrics by longtime collaborator Tim Rice, who also wrote lyrics for musicals like The Lion King and Chess. As one of their earlier works, Joseph is nothing too complicated, more or less faithfully retelling the Biblical tale of Joseph and his coat of many colours in Genesis. It’s a very short musical, clocking in at about 100 minutes sans intermission, and completely sung through.
This production of Joseph feels particularly big budget. Starring X Factor 2009 winner Joe McElderry as Joseph, the cast is equally blessed with powerful vocalists, such as McElderry and narrator Lucy Kay, as well as slick choreography by Henry Metcalfe. If there’s one thing to be said about Joseph, is that there’s never a dull moment, with each new song representing a different genre of music, from musical standards to rock and roll, the latter featuring an Elvis-styled pharaoh of Egypt played by a slick Ben James-Ellis, oozing sex appeal and charisma.
Each and every number features high energy dance and colourful visuals by Sean Cavanagh, whose stage design incorporating huge setpieces and a tall stairway allows for the cast to literally fill the entire stage consistently. The feel of the entire design was mostly lighthearted, with realistic, collapsible sheep and over the top costumes, drawing inspiration from everything from disco to country. Many of the numbers are played for laughs, and we particularly loved the French-inspired Those Canaan Days, with the ensemble flitting around streetlamps onstage to sad accordion music. At the same time, the production knows when to give the spotlight to McElderry, and really shows off his vocal chops in the showstopping Close Every Door, backed up by the huge child chorus for a truly haunting effect.
The high energy and very capable ensemble was also impressive, and despite their lack of character development, managed to create some very memorable moments during the show. Lewis Asquith and Richard J Hunt double up as the butler and baker respectively, allowing for them to add an extra, noticeable comedic edge to their performances, much to the delight of the audience. It was evident the entire cast had very strong chemistry onstage, and it was no surprise that there seemed to be no end to the encore, not that there was a problem, as the audience all stood up and jammed along to the final medley of songs.
If this production of Joseph comes to your town, consider bringing the whole family down for a fun musical night out. Joseph is a high quality show that has remained a timeless and extremely joyous musical for all ages, and that by no means means it’s meant for kids. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and one of those shows that defines the very meaning of entertainment.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is on tour throughout the UK till 10 June 2017. Tickets and dates here