Guest Reviewer: Karen Clough
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, one of the first productions borne of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice partnership in the 1970s, is making as colourful an appearance as you might expect at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.
The story is adapted from the Bible’s book of Genesis, in which Joseph is one of 12 sons of Jacob. Joseph, a dreamer, attracts jealousy and contempt from his brothers, who fear that their father favours him and that the gift of his coat of many colours symbolises this. When Joseph dreams he is destined to rule them, they cannot risk that it may be prophetic, so fake his death and sell him as a slave, in the hope he’ll never be seen again.
Following in the footsteps of likeable household-name ‘Josephs’ spanning four decades, Joe McElderry (of X-Factor) has stepped into Joseph’s Dreamcoat and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it.
After a leisurely start, the large and enthusiastic cast and choir (Stagecoach Chester and Wirral choir) were revealed on a stage filled with glitz, colour and bold lighting (Sean Cavanagh, Nick Richings). The impressively co-ordinated choir brushed off a curtain malfunction with true ‘show must go on’ professionalism.
The entire script is sung, the story joined up by a vibrant and cheery-voiced narrator, Trina Hill. Within a bizarre show, the narrator helpfully keeps the audience in the loop of the story amidst a buzzing, constantly moving and singing stage crowd (Bill Kenwright, Henry Metcalfe). At times this was overwhelming, McElderry’s presence lost in the mayhem of comic inflatable sheep, Elvis (Ben James-Ellis), Egyptians, a golden motorcycle, curious handmaiden (Anna Campkin, Sallie-Beth Lawless, Gemma Pipe) wardrobe choices, Joseph’s range of skirts and, not forgetting, The Coat (Phil Murphy). McElderry did well to recover command of the stage and audience attention as the lead and gave undeniably strong renditions of the show’s best-known hits, ‘Close Every Door to Me’ and the finale ‘Any Dream Will Do’.
This is a chaotic, cheery and at times disorienting whirlwind of a show, performed by a cast who seemed to fully recognise and laugh along at the boldness and absurdity threaded through it. The youngest and oldest in the audience showed their appreciation the most. Take your children or your grandmother – they’ll be dancing in the aisle, or sitting with their hands high and their heads swaying by the end.