Streamlined and stripped of sophistication, sentimental favourite Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat rests upon the proven attraction of its sunny, clap-a-long familiarity.
Still going strong after more than 50 years, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat returns to Australia in an all-new 2019 West End revival production. While there are certainly elements to enjoy in this new staging, the fundamental concept at play is inherently flawed.
Director Laurence Connor and choreographer JoAnn M. Hunter enjoyed world-wide success with their work on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2015 hit School of Rock. Perhaps in an effort to replicate the appeal of the child cast of School of Rock, a significant number of roles in this new production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat are played by children, creating the unfortunate feeling of attending a professional theatre but watching a dinky school production.
Four of Joseph’s 11 brothers are played by children, as are roles previously doubled by adult actors: Potiphar, the Baker, and the Butler.
Where this exercise starts to take on the appearance as a miserly cost-cutting exercise is that the Narrator also takes roles usually played by the adult cast, one small example being Potiphar’s Wife but the most poorly considered one being the role of patriarch Jacob, doting father who favours Joseph with the titular dreamcoat. The climactic father and son reunion is lost and the story’s emotional heart is gone, leaving a hollow spectacle.
Worst of all, the one role that is played by an actual adult performer, that being the coveted role of Pharaoh, is given to an ex-football player with no musical theatre experience. This egregious insult to legitimate stage performers is utterly tone deaf to the recent years of suffering of artists during lockdowns. The characterisation of Pharaoh is famously modelled on Elvis Presley, a conceit that Shane Crawford has no chance of conveying, so the glossy spectacle around act two showstopper “Song of the King” falls in a dull heap.
Setting aside the flawed concept, there are positive aspects, as always, with the Australian performances.
Euan Doidge makes for a warm and wonderful Joseph, giving an engaging, charismatic performance and singing the role in rich vocal form. Choice power ballad “Close Every Door” is a clear vocal highlight, beginning sensitively and moving to a stirring finish.
At this performance, the role of Narrator, usually played by Paulini, was covered by Stephanie Wall. A lovely singer and excellent dancer, Wall inhabited the role as if it were fully her own, giving a sterling and memorable performance.
Alex Hyne shines as Reuben takes the lead in “One More Angel in Heaven.” Daniel Raso, as Simeon, exhibits impressive vocal power in “Those Canaan Days.”
On stage almost continuously, the ensemble delivers a terrific performance, singing the much-loved songs in strong voice and dancing up a storm in newly arranged dance breaks. An early dance highlight is the extended tap break in “Joseph’s Coat”, and the breakout can-can sequence in “Those
Can-Can Canaan Days” is great fun. The production still concludes with the mighty “Joseph Megamix”, which is guaranteed to bring audience to their dancing feet and leave them with smiles on their faces.
Die hard musical theatre fans will most likely appreciate the nostalgia value of this revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Overall enjoyment will depend on the strength of each theatregoer’s rose-tinted glasses.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays at Regent Theatre, Melbourne until 28 January 2022. For tickets, click here. Musical theatre guest star alert Trevor Ashley plays Pharaoh in Melbourne 27 December 2022 – 1 January 2023.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays at Capitol Theatre, Sydney from 11 February 2023. For tickets, click here. Trevor Ashley plays Pharaoh for the Sydney season.
Footnote: local theatre fans who collect souvenir programs should prepare themselves for disappointment with the program for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which only features production images from the UK production (there are, of course, headshots of the Australian cast)
Photos: Daniel Boud
Categories: Music Theatre, Reviews
This is the most honest review and I can relate to every word