Friday, 20 July 2007

Me And My Amazing Technicolor Column

Well I don’t usually write a review of a show after I have seen it, but having seen a preview of “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” I feel compelled to write about it. But “Joseph’s” special.

The first time I saw “Joseph” I must have been eight or nine. I went on a school trip to Leicester Haymarket to see the show and we all had a whale of a time. I remember, during the finale, the actor playing the lead pelted the audience with liquorice allsorts. I am sure in these days of proliferate health and safety regulations it really wouldn’t be allowed, and indeed I cowered in my seat expecting to be killed by a candy hailstorm. My friend Lesley was much braver however and managed to catch a sweet which she then proceeded to nail varnish and cherish as a memento of her love for the show’s star. She still had the all sort in her jewellery box ten years later and I suspect that somewhere in the cottage she shares with her new husband there is still a mouldy old sweet to be found.

The following year saw my next experience of the show, in Chelmsford, where my uncle was playing one of Joseph’s brothers. Possibly I enjoyed the show even more on this occasion. I suspect that in the late seventies and early eighties the show must have played at almost every regional theatre and rep in the country, becoming a huge popular hit that everyone knew well despite it never having had a major west end run.

Around 1980 even “Grange Hill” put on a production of “Joseph”. This wasn’t at all unusual as it was around this time that it became one of the staples for school shows. Then in 1991 a big budget production opened at the Palladium starring Jason Donovan and the musical finally became the huge mainstream success that it is now.

So whether it be a regional version, appearing in a school show or the West End mega hit, there must be many people who count “Joseph” as one of their first theatre experiences or even one of the defining moments of their childhood. In a strange sort of way this results in many of the audience having a strong connection to the piece. This seems to lend a show which, on the surface, seems slight and fluffy a real emotional quality. This is what, I believe, makes “Joseph” special.

Anyway enough of this meandering! Let’s get back to the new sparkling Adelphi production. I must admit that I had forgotten quite how funny the show is, but I was reminded by the lovely Miss Wilkin, at my side, who giggled all the way through! Steven Pimlott’s vision of the piece brings comedy very much to the fore. Humour finds it’s way via the choreography, the set and of course Tim Rice’s ever witty lyrics. This is most evident in the pastiche numbers that the brothers sing which work as brilliantly as ever. I doubt that Lloyd Webber regards Joseph as his greatest work but I think it’s certainly his most entertaining, and as good family entertainment goes the show really can’t be bettered. His score works brilliantly for the show and the shows big numbers “Close Every Door” and “Any Dream Will Do” are hard to beat. Lee Mead is certainly a great find in the lead. I doubt the role has ever been better sung and I heard harmonies there which I have never heard before. I mean Jason Donovan was really charismatic in the role and Donny Osmond – well you have to love Donny, but, I believe, Lee Mead really does sing the role better than it’s ever been sung before. It’s kind of ironic that it’s a TV talent show that has lead to a trained and seasoned musical theatre performer landing the lead when, in recent years, it has very much become associated with fading pop stars and TV presenters. I am sure we will hear of Mr Mead for many years to come and Andrew Lloyd Webber has made a great discovery. Nice set of pins too! The only bad point for me was all the screaming coming from the audience. The majority of this didn’t bother me but the stage mothers screaming for the children did seem a little OTT! Never mind though, they will calm down soon! The one thing that had filled me with horror was the prospect of enduring the mega-mix at the shows end. However my fears were unfounded as it really was a great ending to the show and left the audience with a real high to go out on. Let’s not forget that the Palladium “Joseph” was the first to have one of these extended medleys, so this productions is the first and best!

Maybe it’s just me but I certainly found many elements of the Adelphi production quite moving. The whole “father estranged from son” thing always gets me a bit -but that’s because of my own personal history. Oddly it was during the mega mix that I felt a bit choked. Now this I can’t explain but perhaps it was just the electric atmosphere that the show had generated that was getting to me. Whatever the reason I certainly had a great time and even though I hadn’t been particularly bothered about going I am very glad I did. A really great night out and, on this occasion, I didn’t have the perilous flying sweeties to contend with!

Well, I will be very surprised if a new cast recording of the show isn’t out very soon and I would suggest you wait for that. However the Jason Donovan recording is available as is the Donny Osmond one. They are pretty similar so just go for your favourite Joe! Of course the DVD is available starring Donny alongside Maria Freidman, Richard Attenborough and Joan Collins. A CD soundtrack was also released although it may be quite hard to find now. The filmed version is a lot of fun though and I would recommend it!

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