Sparkling coat refusing to fade

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

****

THIS is a show with one of those annoying songs that meander around your mind for weeks afterwards – which is not to say Any Dream Will Do is a bad song, far from it, just that it is memorable . . . and persistent.

Not that the song is the only memorable thing about this musical about the biblical tale of Joseph, the first of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musicals to be performed back in 1968.

The whole show is fun and has that magical feelgood factor which sees audiences leaving with a smile on their faces.

It wasn't any dream but this particular one for Keith Jack, who came second in the BBC's Any Dream Will Do talent show to find a Joseph. He eventually took over the role in the last tour and is back in this latest tour, directed and produced by Bill Kenwright.

Jack is developing more of a stage presence as time goes on and seems more confident in the role this time around, the coat of Joseph is fitting better one might say, although a singing coach should work on his Scottish roots coming through on any ooo sounds he sings – particularly as one of his big numbers is Any Dream Will Dur.

No such problems with Lauren Ingram as the Narrator which is a big part. You could hear every word and whatever happened on stage she was there. Another star was Luke Jasztal as Pharoah, or Elvis Pharoah, the King as he is here, man.

He looks and sounds the part of Elvis in his Vegas pomp as Joseph interprets his dreams and gets a big career boost moving from jail to palace in one easy song.

SLAVE DEALERS

Then there are his 11 brothers – although lots of times only 10 are on stage – who flogged little Joe off to passing slave dealers after they got fed up with his dreams and out and out favouritism by dad, Jacob, played by Henry Metcalfe..

They provide a lively chorus along with three handmaidens who fill in as various wives along the way.

With the Israelite hit parade being a bit light in Biblical times we were treated to country and western, Parisian street singers, Carmen Miranda and calypso – we even had a singing camel – or half a camel to be exact. The rest is probably in a beef burger or lasagne on some supermarket shelf somewhere.

That was not the only animal appearance we even had a flock of sheep, well seven, who popped up almost on cue. A couple had stage fright on opening night, the opening night of the tour incidentally, which left them initially deflated, but with the odd nudge from a passing brother or two and they rose to the occasion.

With a seven-piece band under MD James McCullagh working hard in the pit, Joseph is a show with plenty of pace and even gives youngsters from local schools, in this case from Tettenhall College and Newbridge Preparatory School, a taste of the professional stage as a chorus, on stage for the entire show. It also pays homage to the show's origins as a school production.

Joseph will never be seen as one of theatre's great musicals, it is no Les Miserables or West Side Story, but it never set out to be.

It is fun for both audience and cast, and with some of the new introductions and extra silliness Bill Kenwright seems to have been enjoying himself as director. It all ends with a singalong, that magic, stage-filling dreamcoat and a standing ovation – and that's entertainment.

Roger Clarke 

Meanwhile from behind the Sphinx

**** 

THIS is a musical you can see any number of times and always leave the theatre with a spring in your step and a feeling of real pleasure.

It's not one of the biggest shows, nor is it packed with high power gimmicks or special effects. And there are no A list stars on parade.

But for sheer entertainment it takes some beating, and the opening night audience gave the cast an impressive standing ovation.

Small changes are made here and there - six blow-up sheep suddenly appear on stage, for instance - but the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber combined with Tim Rice's lyrics are the reason 'Joseph' succeeds again and again.

Keith Jack, runner up in the BBC's Any Dream Will Do contest, is the latest up-and-coming talent to land the role of Joseph, and if he lacks a little stage presence early on, he grows in confidence and stature as he outwits his 11 jealous brothers to become right hand man to Egypt's Pharaoh by interpreting the great man's strange dream.

But the real star of this production is Lauren Ingram, the Narrator.  Rarely off stage, she links all the action with a crystal clear singing voice, and looks great in her black outfit with the sun, moon, stars and planets decorating her tight waistcoat.

A fine performance, too, from Luke Jasztal as Pharaoh, in a sparkling white Elvis outfit with voice and hip shake to match, as he explains his worrying dream, and Joseph elevates from jail to jewels when he solves the problem and is reunited with his reformed brothers and his father Jacob (Henry Metcalfe) in a happy ending.

Youngsters in the Joseph choir are drawn from Tettenhall College and Newbridge Preparatory School.

Directed by Bill Kenwright, this much-loved musical runs to 16.02.13

Paul Marston 

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