Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was the first Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber production to have an audience, arriving in 1968. Therefore, considering my love of musical theatre and the amount of shows I go to, it’s criminal it has taken me until 2019 to see this.

I won’t go into detail, but the story is based around the Joseph saga from that famous work of fiction, The Book of Genesis. Basically, Joseph is the favourite son, which angers his brothers who throw him in a pit, then sell him into slavery. However, the tables are turned when Joseph rises to a position of power and the brothers end up begging him for help.

Including recognisable numbers like Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door, Joseph has been wowing audiences for years. So, would it do the same for me? Sadly not.

It’s a pity, because it started so well with great sound from the orchestra in the overture, and that’s where the fun ended. Heavens (Forgive the pun), it’s a dull show. The songs are not particularly interesting with poor lyrics and a flat storyline. To be frank, this Bill Kenwright production was drab. I expected a myriad of colour but got a stripped-back offering with the minimum of set. There were a few decent Egyptian pieces in Act Two, but that’s about it. Costumes looked cheap as did many of the props. Cardboard talking camels and a likewise Sphinx spring to mind. Not funny or clever. I’ve seen school productions put more effort in. Okay, I do have to say the cast were amazing, but you can only work with what you’re given, which wasn’t much.

To start with, we had a choir of 40 children who were great in the entr’acte and probably so all the way through. However, the sound was not balanced once in competition with the cast and you could barely hear the kids. Such a shame as they put in so much effort, all to be sadly let down. Then we have the character of Joseph. Union J singer Jaymi Hensley did a good job vocally, but I had no empathy for the character. Joseph is supercilious throughout, even when he is down on his luck, and if I was one of his brothers, I’d have probably flung him in a pit as well. And left him.

Another disappointment was the choreography, or rather, lack of it. It all seemed basic and having attended a dance school performance the previous week, I know which I’d award top marks for.

However, worst of all had to be the song parodies. A Country and Western dance … really! I know this and others were also in earlier versions, but they simply don’t work. Anubis’ who looked like grid iron footballers and Joseph’s family dressed as Parisians, complete with striped shirts, berets and neck-scarves. To complete this, we had a pop-up Eifel Tower, just in case you weren’t sure they were supposed to look French. I’m surprised we didn’t have a full house with them sporting a string of onions. Pathetic. But the icing on the cake as far as supreme tacky went to the Elvis impersonator. Again, this has been part of the show before but on this tour, you get the full Vegas experience (Oh, I kid you not). After Song of the King, Joseph asks Pharaoh if he can sing it again. I don’t think those around me expected to hear the stifled cries, of, “Oh, please don’t.”

But none of this was the fault of the cast, as I’ve stated, and in addition to Hensley as Joseph, we had a magnificent performance from Anna Campkin as the Narrator while supporting well on the night were: Henry Metcalf (Jacob/Potiphar) and Andrew Geater (Pharaoh).

Direction for Joseph was the responsibility of Bill Kenwright with Choreography from Henry Metcalf and Gary Lloyd, plus musical direction by Jeremey Wootton.

Now I’m all for reinvention and updated versions, I look forward to them, but this wasn’t a good one. What may have set out to be a clever idea looked more dated than it would have been 30 to 40 years ago. I really think in 2019 we can do better. I also have to say I feel sorry for the folk for whom this was their first musical experience, because they may not come back.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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