For the first time in 18 months, I went to a London theatre on Saturday to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Some of my very good friends had a ticket going spare and knowing how much I adore theatre, they kindly offered it to me. I immediately said yes as Joseph is a show that I’ve always wanted to see. We had tickets for the matinee at The London Palladium with Jac Yarrow, Linzi Hateley and Jason Donovan in the principal roles and we were in for a real treat of an afternoon.
Origins of the musical
With origins in the 1960s, Joseph was one of the first musical collaborations between composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice. After various adjustments, the production’s present-day format was crafted in 1974 and has been performed intermittently ever since, with various celebrities taking on the titular role. The 2021 production is running until Sunday 5th September, with former Joseph: Jason Donovan as Pharaoh, Alexandra Burke as Narrator and Jac Yarrow as Joseph. At special performances Linzi Hateley returns to the narrator role, having been nominated for an Olivier for her performance in 1991. We were fortunate enough to see Linzi and she is still perfect for the role after all of these years!
If you are new to Joseph, the musical is set just after the bible began and it tells the story of Jacob’s favourite son’s misfortune. Joseph is fascinated by dreams and regularly interprets them. The interpretations always imply that he is destined for more in life than his brothers, which upsets and annoys his 11 siblings. These revelations combined with Jacob gifting Joseph a marvellous technicolour coat, causes the brothers to retaliate and Joseph is sold into slavery at the hands of his jealous brothers. He ends up being taken to Egypt where he encounters even more trouble in the first act. After landing himself in prison and reaching his lowest point, the audience learns at the end of act one that all is not lost for Joseph as his dream reading skills may be useful to the people of Egypt. The audience returns for the second half, eager to learn of Jacob’s son’s fate.
Act two showcases Joseph’s rise through society, thanks to his interest in dreams. Joseph quickly becomes a hero for Egypt and despite this being quite a good place for the production to end, it is important for the musical to go full circle and inform the audience about what happened to Joseph’s 11 brothers. I won’t reveal the ending in case you are going to see the show soon, but like lots of other musicals it certainly ends on a high.
If I were to sum up the entire production in one phrase I’d say ‘boundless energy’, for the pure joy and spirit in the show is second to none. I felt exhausted for the cast as a member of the audience, appreciating the sheer stamina that is required for each role in the musical. With powerful voices, impressive choreography and animated facial expressions, the cast gave everything to the performance.
Sets and staging
Reflecting the title of the show, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat had brightly coloured sets that made The London Palladium stage glow. The ensemble costumes for the big dance numbers also featured many different colours, creating a rainbow effect on stage through the outfits. The attention to detail in the staging was admirable and really helped to create a lively and bright atmosphere.
The songs in Joseph were absolutely spectacular. Linzi Hateley led the tracks so well, transitioning the cast between the numbers seamlessly. I was so impressed by how much of the show was performed through song. There wasn’t a huge amount of spoken dialogue as the song lyrics spoke for themselves. My favourite songs were the emotional ‘Close Every Door’ and the energetic ‘Go Go Go Joseph’ at the end of act one. Despite being completely different styles, the songs worked well in sequence with Close Every Door tugging at your heartstrings and Go Go Go Joseph building the audience up for act two.
Jac Yarrow had such a soothing tone to his voice. He performed ‘Any Dream Will Do’ effortlessly and I had goosebumps during Close Every Door. Jason Donovan also really brought the spirit of the blues in his performance as Pharaoh. When I saw the Vegas-inspired staging I thought to myself, how is this going to work? Contrary to my first impression, Pharaoh performing in the style of Elvis was such a fun addition to the show. Jason brought the distinct 50s rock and roll sound to the production with ease.
Children play a key part in Joseph, alternating between roles throughout the performance. I was amazed at how funny some of them were, really helping to add a comedy element to the show. Their on stage dynamic with Linzi Hateley was fantastic and they always looked so happy to be performing with her.
I have nothing but praise for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. With it’s high energy, the musical is a beacon of joy lifting the spirits of West End audiences after lockdown. I enjoyed the production so much that I probably would have booked to see it again, if the show wasn’t closing its doors in two weeks. Jac, Jason, Linzi and the company of Joseph were fantastic. They deserved every second of the lengthy applause during the finale. I am so grateful to my friends for the opportunity to see such a legendary musical live on stage.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx