Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Tim Rice
Director: Laurence Connor
This production first saw the light of day at the London Palladium before embarking on tour and it is an undoubted hit as far as the audience is concerned. With bad news on our televisions and in our newspapers on an almost daily basis, something light and easy-going seems to hit the mark. That said, there’s a couple of things that don’t entirely work.
Steering the show through is Alexandra Burke as the Narrator. Burke is in good voice and belts out her numbers with gusto. She also has some good comedy skills in a performance full of good humour, breaking the fourth wall with asides to the audience and a range of expressions that add that little bit extra. It’s not entirely clear why the decision was made to have her don a fake beard and double as Jacob, though. It’s particularly jarring when both characters are on stage together, involving some slapstick beard business which is unnecessary – there’s plenty of humour in the show without that. The hard-working Burke also doubles as Potiphar’s wife, showing us another side of her skills too.
Jason Donovan makes a return to the show, this time as Pharaoh. Can it really be over 30 years since we saw him as Joseph? It’s no secret that Donovan can sing and act well, he’s been a fixture on TV and stage for so many years. Here he appears in full Pharaoh bling and although he delivers his numbers well, the part is traditionally performed as an Elvis Presley-style character and, for all his talents, Donovan is not that. As usual, though, this part of the show goes down a storm with the audience, such is the quality of Donovan’s skill as a performer. A word here too for Morgan Large’s set design – a stunning gold palace complete with giant Horus figures, a great contrast to the drab hues and muted colours of the Canaan desert.
In the title role, we have Jac Yarrow, whose performance as Joseph at the Palladium launched his career. Barring a slightly underplayed Close Every Door, Yarrow gives a great performance. Vocally he is excellent, easily holding his own among the more experienced performers around him, and he seems born to play this part. The main characters are well supported by an energetic and hard-working ensemble, covering roles from Joseph’s brothers and their wives to Pharaoh’s servants. Of course, there’s children too – though not, as is often the case, as a children’s chorus but often mixed in with the adult ensemble. Here they wear fake beards as brothers and cover minor principal roles such as the baker and butler that Joseph meets in prison. Again, it’s not clear why the decision was made to do that, because although the young people perform very well it looks odd and they don’t always have the experience to carry it off.
Joann M Hunter’s lively choreography adds to the joyous feel of a production that’s full of life and energy, with lots of humour and a nicely varied score by Rice and Lloyd Webber, with music ranging from Country & Western to Calypso. Overall it’s entertaining and good fun, and while a few things may miss the mark they don’t spoil an amusing and enjoyable night out which has everyone on their feet for the final Joseph Megamix.
Runs Until 16 April 2022 and on tour