Sometimes in theatre, you just want a feel-good show that can lift your spirits. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s classic musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has been doing this to audiences for quite some time over the years. Now, in a new production starring Joe McElderry and Lucy Kay, the much-loved musical is on a new tour, on a mission to entertain and captivate audiences across the country. I managed to catch it on its stop at the Grand Opera House, York.
As a recap, Joseph follows the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis. He’s the favourite amongst Jacob’s twelve sons, and is given a fantastic coat of many colours to signify this. His brothers don’t like this, or the fact that Joseph (McElderry) has dreams that depict him going on to great things. They attempt fratricide, and end up selling him into slavery – but Joseph rises through the ranks, and it isn’t long before karma comes back around when Joseph ends up in a position of power in this family-friendly tale of morality.
So nothing too complex happening in terms of narrative, then. It’s straightforward and pretty obvious, making it instantly accessible. The focus here with Joseph, however, isn’t on the narrative – it’s on production values and execution of the sung-through musical’s songs. These are indeed all well-performed by Kay (as the Narrator) and McElderry, along with the rest of the company who bring lots of energy to the production. Songs are emotive and true to the characters in a simple, uncomplicated fashion.
In fact, simple-but-quality is a theme that permeates throughout this production. Enhancing these energetic performances is the production’s overall scenography. While Sean Cavanagh’s set design is quite bare in terms of furniture, this gives the performers plenty of space to execute Henry Metcalfe’s excellent choreography, and places the audience’s focus on them. Since most of the narrative is conveyed through the songs and dance numbers in the musical, it’s crucial that they’re emphasised and presented in an uncluttered fashion. Adding some vibrancy to the mix is Nick Richings’s lighting design, which bursts with colour and seamless, fast changes to help maintain a strong sense of pace to keep things moving.
The musical performances in Joseph are certainly top-drawer, and it’s a visually pleasing production. It’s rather difficult to find any large faults with this production since everything works well and comes together to convey a brilliant, uplifting atmosphere. I think there is, however, one minor niggle lurking here. Sometimes, the energetic nature of scenes and musical numbers can be a bit overwhelming and we lose clarity of voice and speech. The production sometimes seems unable to pace itself, appearing on one simple trajectory. Some variations in this would certainly serve to enhance the feel-good factor and audience engagement.
But again, that’s only a minor niggle. This is a production that does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s warm and engaging, and makes for a highly enjoyable evening accessible to everyone.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is playing at the Grand Opera House until 30 April and continues on a UK tour. For more information and tickets, visit the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat website. Photo: Darren Bell