Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 14 – Sat 18 March 2017
Review by Martin Gray
It’s nearly 50 years old but Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, at the Playhouse until Saturday, doesn’t need to be mothballed.
That’s partly to do with the show itself – the young Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s melding of biblical tale and hugely hummable tunes was theatrical alchemy. A boy sold into slavery by his jealous brothers isn’t the most obvious starting point for a joyous musical, but Rice’s cheeky script and lyrics, and Lloyd Webber’s uncanny knack for homage resulted in a show that’s entertained generations.
A huge reason for the success of this production is star Joe McElderry, whose singing voice has grown massively since he won The X Factor in 2009; then it was a decent instrument, but a subsequent spot on ITV contest Popstar to Operastar opened his eyes to its true potential and it’s safe to say McElderry’s meeting it – he finds the sweet spot between control and passion, every time.
The opening verse of the climactic Any Dream Will Do is delivered more slowly, deliberately than usual, and it works wonderfully well, bringing out the emotion of Joseph’s reunion with father Jacob. His other big number, Close Every Door, is equally as good, with McElderry throwing heart and soul into his portrayal of a young man doubly wronged by others and facing only despair.
Undoubtedly McElderry has benefited from joining a well-established company – inflatable sheep apart, several members of the ensemble cast are familiar from previous visits to Edinburgh. The energy levels are top-end Duracell, as evidenced by such standout numbers as torch song Those Canaan Days and cowpoke homage One More Angel in Heaven, delivered by the all-singing, all-dancing Brothers and Handmaidens.
The Brothers are led by Henry Metcalfe as frankly rubbish father Jacob – doing double duty as choreographer – and he gives an assured performance. Richard J Hunt and Lewis Asquith also get to show their versatility by playing not just brothers Judah and Reuben, but unfortunate members of Pharaoh’s household, delivering the comedy along with the plot points.
Lucy Kay has a luminous quality that means the Narrator never gets lost amid the onstage crowd, and a sweetness to her voice that draws you in. Once or twice she’s required to belt out lines and the harshness doesn’t suit her, but overall she knits the sung-through scenes together beautifully.
The scene-stealing Pharaoh role goes to Ben James-Ellis, a runner-up in Lloyd Webber’s Any Dream Will Do TV audition for a Joseph star, he went on to West End fame in Hairspray. He has a ball with the Elvis-soundalike King of the Nile in the show’s campest scenes.
It can be easy to forget about the kiddie choir that sits on stage in Joseph productions, but not this lot – there’s not an iota of annoying precocity on display, just talent as the kids harmonise with the adults.
The set is the work of designer Sean Cavanagh and it’s as attractive as it is adaptable, a meeting of massive monuments to the Egyptian pantheon and simple staircases allowing for easy entrances and exits.
Then there’s Joseph’s ‘golden chariot’ at the end, as cheesy as it is random, and all the better for it. The lighting design, from Nick Richings, is equally fine, moody when appropriate, at other times evoking an ancient discotheque.
Musical director Richard Morris leads a tight band, always accompanying the cast, never competing with them. And when it’s time for the post-story Joseph Megamix, well, let’s see you try to stay in your seat…
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a British classic and veteran director Bill Kenwright gives it the vibrant production it deserves. If you’ve never seen it, there won’t be a better time.
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA.
Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 March 2017.
Tue-Thurs: 7.30pm, Fri/Sat: 5pm & 8pm; Matinees: Weds/Thurs: 2.30pm, Sat: 2pm.
Tickets and booking details: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/joseph-and-the-amazing-technicolor-dreamcoat-2/edinburgh-playhouse/
Tour Website: http://www.kenwright.com/microsite/joseph/
|Joseph on tour 2017:|
|14 – 18 Mar|| Edinburgh
|0844 871 3014||Book online|
|20 – 25 Mar|| Malvern
|01684 892 277||Book online|
|28 Mar – 1 Apr|| Shrewsbury
|01743 281281||Book online|
|4 – 8 Apr|| Bradford
|01274 432000||Book online|
|11 – 15 Apr|| Skegness
|01507 613100||Book online|
|18 – 22 Apr|| Preston
|01772 80 44 44||Book online|
|25 – 29 Apr|| Nottingham
|0115 989 5555||Book online|
|2 – 6 May|| Bristol
|0844 871 3012||Book online|
|9 – 13 May|| Wales
|029 2063 6464||Book online|
|16 – 20 May|| Truro
Hall for Cornwall
|01872 262466||Book online|
|23 – 27 May|| Stockport
|0161 477 7779||Book online|
|30 May – 3 Jun|| Londonderry
|028 7126 4455||Book online|
|6 – 10 Jun|| Belfast
Grand Opera House
|028 9024 1919||Book online|
|13 – 17 Jun|| Cheltenham
|01242 572573||Book online|