Comfortable old coat is still dreaming

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

***

Certain shows,  it seems,  just won't die. Hot on the heels of Blood Brothers – another show that won't lie down– The Grand theatre offers the Biblical crowd pleaser that is Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Given the reaction of the audience on opening night, it's a formula that doesn't need changing.

Producer Bill Kenwright must be rubbing his hands with glee. This show (along with the aforementioned Blood Brothers , another one of his ) has been doing the rounds for over 25 years now.  Box office bankers like this are a rarity these days and it is little wonder they still form part of so many theatre's touring programme.

Joseph was first performed as a 15 minute musical in 1968 – the first collaboration between Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It went through a number of re- incarnations and refinements before opening in its current form on Broadway in 1982.

It made its West End debut in 1991, starring a certain Jason Donavan and has been gracing the provinces ever since.  The show's  popularity received a huge boost following the BBC  series  Any Dream Will Do which propelled the winner , Lee Mead, into the starring role and recruited a new army of followers.. Keith Jack, who came second, now takes on the role of the colourful coat lover in this latest  production.

The success and appeal of this show lies in it's simplicity.  There's no sub text here, no complex dialogue – just catchy tunes, broad smiles and fab costumes. Throw in lots of cute kids , some quality inflatable sheep and a show stopping Elvis and the picture is complete. 

There's no time for subtlety here as big number follows big number with vibrancy and pizazz.  

Jennifer Potts as the Narrator with Keith Jack as Joseph

Few would doubt Lloyd Webbers ability to construct memorable tunes though he does rely rather a lot on reprises.  I would not go as far as saying I was getting bored with Close Every Door but it was certainly losing its impact by the third reprisal.

At the core of the show lies the narration – beautifully and powerfully delivered by Jennifer Potts who swtiches her voice effortlessly from sweet  ballad to belting rock.  Narrative links are certainly needed here as action moves somewhat randomly at times between different locations.  Onion carrying, bicycle riding, stripey shirt wearing French folk precede coconut shaking calypso dancers and dozy doh cowboys in a surreal mix of settings.  

Performances are upbeat and fresh as, indeed, they should be at this level. . Keith Jack is assured and more than competent in the title role. He is as close to a Disney character in human form as its possible to be .

Given the nature of the show though, this is certainly no criticism.   A strong performance, too, from  Adam Jarrell as Pharoh. He certainly got the lady in front of me in a lather with his lip sneering and hip gyrating , and many more seemed to concur.

 A strong ensemble cast keep the whole thing moving at a pace and provided a visual feast at times. Mention too should be made of the chorus of children from local school, Tettenhall College who were onstage throughout the show lending their vocal support and mostly refraining from fidgeting for the whole 2 hours.  

By the end of the  umpteenth curtain call, the audience were hooked. They stood up.  They clapped. They sang along and they left the theatre happy.  And with this many bums on seats , no doubt Mr. Kenwright is happy too. To 6-03-10

Tom Roberts

Have you got one in a different size and colour . . .

****

THIS is one of those shows which keeps coming back, pulling in large audiences and earning the same reaction - a standing ovation at the end.

With Andrew Lloyd Webber's music and Tim Rice's clever lyrics it can hardly go wrong, and in truth it's a dream of a musical.

The names in the cast change but the result doesn't, and in this production Keith Jack is excellent in the lead role of Joseph, favourite son of Jacob but sold into slavery by his 11 jealous brothers.

Jack was runner-up in the BBC talent show Any Dream Will Do which searched for a new star to appear in the West End's staging of the happy, full-of-fun musical, but after a run as Narrator on the UK tour he is now No 1 on merit. His singing of Any Dream Will Do is memorable.

Jennifer Potts, a delight as the Narrator, strings the action together nicely in this amusing version of the famous biblical tale about the coat of many colours, and Adam Jarrell sparkles as Pharaoh, particularly in the scene where he becomes a kind of Elvis seeking Joseph's help in finding the reason behind his puzzling dream.

The costumes and Henry Metcalfe's choreography in Bill Kenwright's presentation are fine, too. James McCullagh is musical director of a magical musical which runs to Sunday 06.03.11.

It's as colourful and clever as Joseph's fantastic coat.   

Jennefer Marston

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