Kenny Smith revels in the return of an old favourite.
THERE’S a good reason why Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat keeps coming back again and again – it’s a damn good musical.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s hit, based on a Bible story, is the show that keeps bouncing back, with a new cast, time and again.
Recent touring productions have been headlined by former reality show singers, with The X Factor’s Joe McElderry and Lloyd Daniels having taking on the coat of many colours.
However, recent years have seen the demise of Simon Cowell’s musical meat-grinding machine, and there’s been no Lord Lloyd Webber talent hunt on the BBC to find a star, so here, we’ve got newcomer Jac Yarrow as the latest to don the mantle. His first role as a professional performer was as Joseph in the West End production, to which he returned last year, before embarking on this new tour.
And, like his predecessors, he’s great. He delivers his numbers with relish, and with his physique, he commands attention, with a physical performance and presence that draws the eye.
But if you’ve seen the last few touring shows of Joseph, you’re in for a surprise. This is a complete reworking from top to bottom, with the previous sets gone, and replace by something far more compact, and no doubt easier to transport. Gone are the two-part interlocked steps, which previously formed the main backdrop. It’s very cleverly done, with minimalistic set dressing until we get to the sumptously designed Pharoah’s palace… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
A couple of camels pop up at one point – actually tricycles, with someone leading the oversized head on in front of them. It’s simple, brilliant and very effective.
So much of Joseph has traditionally been carried by the Narrator, and here, we have someone with plenty of experience in the part. The incredible Linzi Hateley first played the part in the 1991 run of Joseph, with Jason Donovan and Phillip Schofield in the titular role.
The part has been reinvented for this new production, as the Narrator fills in as Joseph’s father Jacob, and also as the Pharoah’s wife, as well as the jailer. She’s absolutely brilliant, bringing charm, life and character to the roles, and the audience absolutely loved her – especially the Scouse jailer. A first class performer, and it’s obvious to see why she’s Olivier-award nominated.
Other parts made redundant, or at least doubled-up, include several of Joseph’s brothers, now played by the junior members of the cast who appear at the start of the production and previously as a chorus, and now perform as the Cook, the Butler and Potiphar.
The songs make this show a guaranteed hit, mixing cowboy style songs, with French melodies, and the rock and roll numbers from the Pharoah, in the style of Elvis.
But in an absolute masterstroke of casting, 1991 Joseph star Jason Donovan is now the Pharoah. In the past, I’ve been ambivolent about the Pharoah, but here, Donovan brings so much charm, enthusiasm and a strutting arrogance to the part, and it’s clear to see that he’s absolutely loving a new lease of life in this production.
He had the audience eating from the palm of his hand, and I feel delighted to have seen someone whose version of Any Dream Will Do was regularly played by my younger self, back in the 1990s.
The real highlight of the show, of course, is Any Dream Will Do. It’s very, very hard not to want to sing along with this – and thank goodness for the Joseph Megamix encore number, which had everyone on their feet. The audience loved this show, and everyone was dancing by the end – and there’s air cannons firing coloured streamers into the air at the very end – the perfect end to an amazing show.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre until Saturday, 25 June. This is a must-see.
Tickets are available HERE.