Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Tim Rice
Director: Laurence Connor
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is one of those shows that everyone seems to learn by osmosis by the time they have left primary school, so it’s no wonder the Grand Theatre is packed and a ripple of obsessive fandom is in the air. Kids are dressed in rainbow garments, and even the adults seem to have purposefully pulled out their colourful summer clothes (although that could be more to do with the intense heatwave). The scene is set for transportation to biblical Israel. And wow are the audience transported. The second the curtain opens Leeds is pulled into a giant, brightly coloured, neon and LED enhanced story book of a stage. Sing along now – it was red, and yellow, and green, and brown and…
A visually stunning treat thanks to set and costume designer Morgan Large, Joseph tells the biblical tale of the titular character. Loved by his father but unappreciated by his 11 brothers, dreamer Joseph (Jac Yarrow) ends up in Egypt after a series of trials including slavery, prison and disco. He meets The Pharaoh (Jason Donovan) and finally his siblings may get their comeuppance. Which all sounds a rather dark and depressing story, but you wouldn’t know it thanks to the high energy, upbeat score of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
Yarrow sings his heart out, gaining an extended applause for Close Every Door and of course nailing Any Dream Will Do. Former Joseph Donovan is a joyous cameo for Song of the King, doing his finest Elvis impression. But the stage is completely owned by Narrator Linzi Hateley. An old hat at the role, Hateley has the charm, comedy and supremely impressive talent to take the audience by the hand like an enthusiastic Sunday School teacher. She is the out and out star of the show and simply fantastic to watch work.
However, Joseph is an ensemble show, and the real kudos must go to the chorus. The adult chorus are glorious, but the best surprise of the night is far and away the child chorus. The eight children are not just a passive choral sickliness as they used to be, but are involved playing smaller roles such as Potiphar, some of the brothers and even a rather shouty goat. The girl starting Benjamin Calypso had a particularly astounding voice, but all eight of them prove that the future of musical theatre is as bright as Joseph’s wardrobe.
While the UK bakes in the highest temperatures of the year, it is definitely time to escape to the desert for a couple of hours. Pull out your brightest robes and relive your Junior School assembly. You know you remember all the lyrics…