It may have been going for more than five decades but you will not see a more vibrant show this year than the current touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Given its popularity and longevity it is hard now to imagine this famous musical, with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, started life as a school play. Based on a Biblical story the show has an enduring quality and fabulous songs which keeps people going back to see it year after year.
Joseph is one of Jacob’s dozen sons but being his father’s favourite breeds jealousy from his siblings. It all becomes too much for the brother’s when Joseph is the only one given an amazing technicolor coat and goes on to tell them about his dream in which they will all bowed down before him. Fuelled by jealous rage the brothers gather together to sell Joseph into slavery, returning a blood-stained coat to his devastated father.
Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams serves as both a blessing and a curse, getting him both into and out of difficult situations. Jac Yarrow brings the demeanor, confidence, charm and warmth to the lead role, displaying why Joseph would be so popular to a parent yet instil jealousy in those trying to keep up to his standards. His voice is fantastic and was deservedly shown extended appreciation following the raw emotion and control he brought to Close Every Door.
Alexandra Burke has made a swift return to Manchester after her perfect pantomime performance in Aladdin with a sparkling role of the Narrator. Her wonderful vocals, dancing and energy were a joy to behold.
The all too brief second act appearance of Jason Donovan’s Pharaoh brought a roar from those in the crowd who remember his chart-topping time as the wearer of the eponymous garment. Usually the Pharaoh role is played as a full-on Elvis impersonator from the Vegas years and the although Donovan dons “The King” rhinestone cloak he steers clear of attempting the distinctive Presley voice. The director, Laurence Connor, resisted the temptation to allow Donovan to reprise his Joseph role during the Joseph Megamix at the end and although the roof would have come off if he’d just sang the line, “I close my eyes”, it was the right call to keep Yarrow front and centre.
The show is filled with laughter and fun, catchy songs inspired by different musical genres, be it the Hoedown and Line Dancing of One More Angel in Heaven, French retrospective Those Canaan Days or the Caribbean sounds of Benjamin Calypso.
The set and costume design by Morgan Large is astonishing in that it harks back to the original school play roots of the show by having sparse two-dimensional backdrops but these are then interspersed with stunning camel puppets and 30-foot guitar wielding statues.
With this being a cantata, the pace never lets up and the children in the cast bounce about with great infectious energy.
Go, go, go to see this production of Joseph while it is still in Manchester.