Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Tim Rice
Director: Bill Kenwright
Reviewer: James Garrington
On 9th June 2007, 8.5 million people tuned in to watch Keith Jack come second in the final of Any Dream will Do, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s search for a star for his forthcoming West End production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a rôle that was taken by the winner Lee Mead. Such is the popularity of Joseph, however, that a national tour was organised to start as early as October 2007, running in parallel with the West End production and featuring Jack, initially as the narrator and more recently in the rôle of Joseph. In the forty-five years since Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber created this show it has undergone a number of transformations. When originally developed it ran for only 15 minutes, and over the years has been extended to be practically a full length show by the lengthening of some of the songs, the addition of extra musical numbers, and by the use of a ‘megamix’ to fill the last ten minutes by reprising most of the songs. During this time the show has retained its popular appeal and there must be very few people in this country who are not at least aware of it; many of them will actually have taken part in it.
This is, in many ways, a very typical Kenwright touring production. It is designed to appeal to a wide variety of tastes, and seems aimed particularly at the infrequent theatre-goer. There is little in the way of subtlety or sophistication here, with the production reaching probably its lowest ebb with the introduction of a singing sphinx. It feels very like a pantomime, with the humour blatant and visual, clearly aimed at a younger audience – and, to be fair, the majority of the family audience seemed to enjoy it. Of course, this is not a deep and meaningful show in the first place, with the original version being written when Rice and Lloyd Webber were both very young; even so, it is actually the quality and variety of the music that provides its redeeming feature.
Keith Jack has found his natural home in this rôle. Although he has been involved in a number of other projects since the programme, Joseph has been the mainstay of his career over the last six years or so. At the age of 25 he retains a youthful charm which is quite appropriate for the rôle as second-youngest son. He is clearly very popular with the audience, looking a little like a young Tommy Steele with an almost permanent grin, which is good in places but not entirely right when Joseph is being sold into slavery. He is well supported by Lauren Ingram who is in good voice as the narrator, and is one of the best parts of this show. She delivers a pretty consistent and impressive performance throughout, in a rôle that calls for a lot of vocal stamina. The remainder of the cast perform with energy, with the whole company keeping the show moving at a brisk pace.
A final mention must go to the choir of children from AGF Performing Arts, also a high point of the evening. Despite being on stage throughout the production, they are disciplined, sing beautifully, and are a credit to their school.
The underlying story of this show is that good things come to those who are good, and the bad that people do can be forgiven; but that isn’t really what this production is about. It’s designed to be simple and unsubtle, and all about fun and feel-good; and in that regard the majority of the audience left the theatre satisfied. Recommended as a fun evening for the family, but if you are a discerning theatre-goer you may find yourself a little disappointed.
Runs until 13th April 2013