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A CurtainUp London London Review
Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat

Anyone from anywhere can make it if they get a lucky break —Joseph
Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
Lee Mead as Joseph with the children's choir from The Carmel Thomas Youth Singers
(Photo: Tristram Kenton)

This is the second major West End production to be cast by the viewing public voting to eliminate contenders from a selection, some of whom are amateurs. Like Connie Fisher who was so cast as Maria in The Sound of Music, Lee Mead was actually already professional. He is a good choice, very handsome and very charming, as well as singing sweetly and strongly and having great stage presence.

The production itself was something of a surprise in as far as many of the elements are those we saw a few years back in Kenwright's previous West End production of Joseph. However on that occasion, I felt that the show was over extended with too many encores, something I didn't experience this time. My daughter chose to come with me fondly remembering the three times she had seen Joseph in the West End when she was still at primary school and she wasn't disappointed.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's music is openly derivative as the songs take on different genres from that rather studied 1920s syncopation of the Potiphar scenes to the Parisian bar songs of the starving in Canaan to Country and Western to Calypso and Elvis rock of the Pharaoh. The final number of the first act is a Disco type celebration of flower power and the Swinging Sixties. Tim Rice's lyrics still sparkle with wit and invention which raises the whole musical into a great comedy. It is a toe tapping evening with tunes that are easy and tend to stay with you.

As I have already said, many of the sets are either the ones seen some years ago or slightly reworked so that this production's recycling must be contributing to saving the planet. The costumes are partially fresh and rather raunchy in places ( the Potiphar women have flesh coloured body stockings with pertinent places concealed with an array of sequins). In the big Pharaoh scene the girls wear long golden rope "fish net" style robes and again the naughty bits are concealed by gold sequins. However the Joseph coat is the same one the children remember from primary school.

The brothers have flowing ringlets almost Hasidic style under turbans but with sunglasses concealing dark and angry eye makeup whereas their wives are veiled Muslim style, and the whole show has a Monty Pythonesque feel for the ridiculous. The wives wear head dresses made up of domestic equipment from a sewing machine to a mangle to a watering can or wine rack. Rather silly! The Potiphar scene is a designer's dream with the opportunity to express Art Deco style in black and white. The men wear white knee socks with patent leather shoes, Gandhi style dhoti shorts of swathed and draped silk with cream Indian jackets. There are plenty of visual jokes to complement the lyrical puns with sheep and camels thrown into the mix.

The performances are very polished. The children in the choir are very cute and rather earnest as they sing their little hearts out. Preeya Kalidas as the Narrator has a wonderful voice although at Size 0 she looks as though she too has been starving in Canaan. I loved Tom Gillies' adorable little Benjamin who we all wanted to save. Ultimately, this is Lee Mead's show. He is already a celebrity through the television series and deservedly has tremendous crowd support. The down side of this populism is a lack of reverence for theatre and a tendency of the audience to talk through the overture or whistle or sing the tunes or clap along but still, they are having a wonderful time.

Lyrics by Tim Rice
Originally Directed by Steven Pimlott
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Starring: Lee Mead, Preeya Kalidas, Dean Collinson, Stephen Tate
With: John Alastair, Emma Harris, Mark Oxtoby, Sarah Meade, Ricky Rojas, Jennifer Ashton, Nathaniel Morrison, Verity Bentham, Adam Pearce, Emily Mascarenhas, James Bisp, Fiona Reyes, Paul Basleigh, Lucie Downer, Craig Scott, Louise Madison, Russell Walker, Pippa Raine, Tom Gillies, Daniel Young, Neal Wright, Tamlyn Platts, Kate Alexander, Tyman Boatwright, Simon Coulthard, Pip Jordan, Jonathan stewart, Kate Tydman
Production Design: Mark Thomson
Orchestrations: John Cameron
Lighting Design: Andrew Bridge
Sound Design: Mick Potter
Choreographer: Anthony Van Laast
Musical Supervisor: Simon Lee
Assistant Director and Assistant Choreographer: Nichola Treherne
Running time: Two hours ten minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0870 895 5598
Booking to 5th January 2008
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 18th July 2007 performance at Adelphi Theatre, The Strand, London WC2 (Rail/Tube: Charing Cross)

Musical Numbers
Act One
  • "Overture"/Orchestral
  • "Prologue"/Narrator
  • "Any Dream Will Do"/Joseph and the Children
  • "Jacob & Sons/Joseph's Coat"/Narrator, Brothers, Wives, Children, Jacob, Joseph
  • "Joseph's Dreams"/ Narrator, Joseph, Brothers, Wives, Jacob, Children,
  • "Poor, Poor Joseph"/ Narrator, Brothers, Children
  • "One More Angel in Heaven"/ Reuben, Narrator, Brothers, Wives, Jacob, Children
  • "Potiphar"/Children, Narrator, Male Ensemble, Mrs Potiphar, Potiphar, Joseph
  • "Close Every Door"/Joseph, Children
  • "Go, Go, Go, Joseph"/Narrator, Butler, Baker, Ensemble, Joseph, Guru, Children
Act Two
  • "Entr'Acte"/Children
  • "Pharaoh's Story"/Narrator, Children
  • "Poor, Poor Pharaoh/Song of the King"/Narrator, Butler, Pharaoh, Children, Ensemble
  • "Pharaoh's Dream Explained"/Joseph, Ensemble, Children
  • "Stone The Crows"/Narrator, Children, Pharaoh, Joseph, Female Ensemble
  • "King of my Heart "/Pharaoh
  • "Those Canaan Days"/Simeon, Jacob, Brothers, Apache Dancers
  • "The Brothers Came to Egypt/Grovel, Grovel"/Narrator, Brothers, Joseph, Female Ensemble, Children
  • "Who's The Thief"/Joseph, Brothers, Female Ensemble, Children
  • "Benjamin Calypso"/Judah, Brothers, Female Ensemble, Children
  • "Joseph All the Time"/Narrator, Joseph, Children, Brothers, Female Ensemble
  • "Jacob in Egypt "/Narrator, Jacob, Children, Ensemble
  • "Any Dream Will Do"/Joseph, Narrator, Ensemble, Jacob, Children
  • "Close Every Door (Reprise)"/Joseph, Children
  • "Joseph Megamix"/Full Company

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©Copyright 2007, Elyse Sommer.
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