The Theatreguide.London Review
and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Joseph has my favourite Andrew Lloyd Webber score until Phantom, and some of Tim Rice's most delightful lyrics (The line about pyjamas is a deserved classic).
What's more, this production, riding on the back of a TV competition to pick its star, has a guaranteed audience for a respectable run.
So it hardly matters that this is not a particularly good production. A half-steam Joseph still has enough going for it to satisfy a lot of people.
For those who've been living on the moon, Tim and Andrew first wrote a 20-minute version of the biblical story of Joseph for a school pageant, then expanded it for a one-hour professional production in 1972, and have over the years added a few more songs to fill it out even further.
This production, by adding one number that's new to me (Pharaoh's lament when Joseph eclipses him in popularity), an extra chorus to almost every other song, a couple of dances, and about 15 minutes of post-curtain call encores, runs a little over two hours.
And it's all fun, and the kids love it, and the fact that every other production of this musical I've seen has been better may ultimately be irrelevant, except that, while first-timers will enjoy themselves, other Joseph veterans may be as disappointed as I.
This is a recreation by director Nichola Treherne and designer Mark Thompson of Steven Pimlott's 1991 Palladium production, the one that starred Jason Donovan. But everything about it seems to have shrunk and become, well, less colourful - even the fabled dreamcoat is not especially brighter than everyone else's costumes.
You keep waiting for the quirky spark of wit and invention this show has inspired in other directors, but the best you get are some stuffed Ishmaelites and a singing camel and serpent. Even the thoroughly delightful children's chorus seems underused.
Lee Mead, winner of the TV audition, makes an attractive, if somewhat wooden Joseph. He looks good in a loincloth and, with the aid of the sound engineer, booms out the power ballads of 'Close Every Door' and 'Any Dream Will Do.' But he lacks the boyish quality and the sense of having fun in our company that others have brought to the role.
Preeya Kalidas plays the narrator as a visiting guest star diva, rather than as enthusiastic story- and fun-sharer, further adding to a sense of distance between audience and show. Dean Collinson takes a while to find the character of Pharaoh (There are 20,000 Elvis impersonators out there who could do it better), though he does get there finally by the new song.
As I said, any Joseph is better than no Joseph. Take the kids - they'll have a ball. And maybe sometime in the future they'll get to see the kind of really good production this delightful show deserves.
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Review - Joseph ... Dreamcoat - Adelphi 2007