Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Malvern Theatres


I’ll come clean: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is one of my all time favourite albums, along with the equally kitsch Jesus Christ Superstar.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice are surely the most perfectly paired musical match in history, with Lloyd Webber able to turn his composing talent to any mood or genre, and Rice’s witty wordsmithery never tiring.

Together they have again and again taken the most unlikely of stories and repackaged them for modern day audiences of all ages to enjoy.

A biblical tale of brotherly jealousy, attempted seduction and planned fratricide transposed from Genesis to floodlit stage, incorporating catchy parodies of calypso, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll with an Elvis-inspired Pharaoh – Rice and Lloyd Webber’s collaborations really ought not work, and yet they always do.

Directed and produced by the prolific Bill Kenwright, with Henry Metcalfe as choreographer, and Richard Morris as musical director, this production should have everything going for it. The set (designed by Sean Cavanagh) looked wonderful, and it was impressive that such a big cast managed to comfortably share the stage for much of the action, along with the brilliantly incorporated local choir from Stagecoach Malvern and Ledbury.

Indeed, special mention must go to these children (and their singing teacher Kelly Forrester), as not only did their young voices add much to the production, but also they sat silent and still when not part of proceedings, so as not to distract the audience.

My boys would have lasted half an hour maximum in the spotlight. But only if they’d had their smartphones. Nick Richings’ lighting illuminated the set beautifully, and the live band in the pit did a great job with this fantastic score. Costume design (supervised by Alex Stewart) was suitably colourful and fun, with a fittingly over the top new coat for Joseph at the end of the tale.

And now for the cast... This, for me, is where things went slightly askew. The stars of Joseph are X Factor winner Joe McElderry and Britain’s Got Talent runner up Lucy Kay. Now, I do have a knack of remaining oblivious to popular culture, so must admit that I’ve never come across either of these singers, but I was confident that their credentials would at least ensure the brilliance of their vocals.

I’m sure that both pull in huge crowds and new audiences, which is of course a great positive and wonderful for the box office, but for me their vocals were simply not strong enough to carry the production, with McElderry (as Joseph) at times seeming to try too hard. Kay (as narrator) seemed more of a natural actor than McElderry, but I’m afraid I found her voice rather shrill at times, and neither was (for me) a pleasure to listen to.


Their energy can’t be faulted though, and I’m sure many in the audience would disagree with my opinion of their performances. Those who are already fans would no doubt be delighted to watch McElderry kneeling in sparkly silver loincloth and chains as he belts out Close Every Door, his strongest vocal performance of the evening, but for me there was something lacking. Despite the humour in this piece, there are big emotions and themes interwoven, and songs like this one should pull at the audience’s heartstrings and really make us care about Joseph’s fate. Sadly I didn’t.

Interestingly, my one moment of empathy came right at the end of the story, where poor Benjamin was framed as a thief. George Knapper as the youngest of the twelve brothers looked genuinely terrified when accused of stealing, and for me created the only emotionally engaging moment of the night.

Richard J Hunt stood out with his comic performance as the West Country baker (he also played Judah), and my favourite was Lewis Asquith as the butler, whose mere demeanour raised a smile. All of the brothers were high energy and entertaining, and the show’s own choreographer Henry Metcalfe added gravitas with his dignified portrayal of both Jacob and Potiphar.

I particularly enjoyed his Canaan Days lament as he stood with his sons beneath the Eiffel Tower, all dressed in stereotypical French costume, complete with berets, one playing accordion and one selling garlic and onions from his pushbike.

Sallie-Beth Lawless, Gemma Pipe and Amana Jones added some very welcome feminine energy to a male dominated cast, covering several characters each and enhancing the dance sequences. It was a shame that Jones had such a limited opportunity to display her vocal ability, as her voice was my favourite of them all. Casting a female narrator is in my eyes a good move, and the only improvement that could be made to my 1974 version of the album, but perhaps with Jones as lead, rather than Kay.

Despite my niggles, there was plenty to enjoy, and the audience (and usher) clearly loved the production, singing along to the closing Joseph Megamix Reprises with gusto. I overheard one woman on the theatre steps gushing that this was the best performance she’d ever seen. With such well written music and lyrics, it’s hard to go far wrong: ‘In a class above the rest, it even went well with his vest...’, ‘All these things you saw in your pyjamas, are the long-range forecast for your farmers...’ – genius.

At around two hours long, the show never drags, and it certainly has the feel-good factor and will without doubt thrill any fans of Kay or McElderry.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs in Malvern to 25-03-17 the continues on tour.

Amy Rainbow


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