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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

****

IT’S 48 years since Andrew Lloyd Webber and Time Rice's Joseph first rang out as a 15-minute pop cantata written for the choir at a London junior school – and who knew then how well he would do when he grew up and left school.

There has hardly been a year when a production is not being staged here or in the USA while it is a firm favourite of schools and amateur companies averaging more than 500 productions a year and it is easy to see why.

It is fun, light-hearted, family-freindly, and has plenty of easy on the ear songs, including Andy Dream Will Do which takes up residence in your brain for days afterwards

Taking the lead role in the current Bill Kenwright tour is Joe McElderry, who fills the stage with infectious enthusiasm and the voice that made him 2009’s X-Factor winner – and he sings so yoLucy Kay u can hear every word. He looks to be enjoying every minute with the audience happily joining him.

Taking the singing honours though is the trained and effortless soprano of Lucy Kay whose opera background was evident. She came second in 2014’s Britain’s Got Talent which brought her beautiful, clear voice to the public’s notice.

She sang the part of the narrator with every note pitch perfect and words clear as a bell - listening to her is just a delight.

Lucy Kay as The Narrator

Adding to the fun was Amilianos Stamatakis as the Pharoah. He is well known in his native Greece as both a musical theatre star and for appearing in concerts of everything from rock and metal to jazz and pop. His CV  also includes dubbing CSI and Miami Club into Greek, which is no advantage here, but interesting  all the same.

This is his debut in this country and what a debut as the white suited, Elvis look and sound alike Pharaoh. One imagines when he heads off into the night, work done for the day, the cry goes out: “Elvis has left the building”, the boy is that good.

There is good support too from the 11 lively brothers as we head through a glorious pick-and-mix of musical styles which sees a hint of Wilson, Keppel and Betty in the desert, a good ol’fashioned hoedown for any Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ fans, a Gospel Choir and, swapping the Nile for the Seine, bring out the striped jumpers, berets, accordion and onion seller for Those Canaan Days. Then for good measure chuck in the Benjamin Calypso – there is no apparent reason for any of it but, what the heck, it's all great fun and part of the appeal of the show.

We even have Joseph arriving in triumph at the end on a sort of 2500 cc, sorry that should read bc, Harley.

The story of Joseph, from Genesis, is simple. Joseph is the youngest son of Jacob, born when his father was an old man, so he became the favourite son, which did not go down well with the brothers – so, when he was give a coat of many colours they had had enough, so they flogged him off to a passing caravan as a slave.

But Joseph’s dream interpreting powers saw him zoom him up through the ranks to Pharaoh’s right hand man, saving Egypt from seven year’s of famine along the way.

When his father, played by Henry Matcalfe, and remorseful brothers arrive from Canaan begging for food Joseph reveals himself and all is forgiven in a happy family reunion finale which had most of the audience up on their feet clapping along.

A mention too for the children from Stagecoach in Sutton Coldfield and Solihull who provided the two teams that made up the Joseph Choir, a homage to the show’s humble beginnings.

Metcalfe is also the choreographer and has produced some lively numbers while Kenwright’s direction keeps everything zipping along on Sean Cavanagh’s bright, colourful and flexible set with no pause in the action not even for what must be some very rapid costume changes.

Computers and LEDs have revolutionised theatre lighting and Nick Richings lighting design, programmed by Jim Beagey, is both effective and interesting.

The result is a most entertaining new production of an old favourite. Any dream might do but it helps if it is as enjoyable as this one. To 21-05-16

Roger Clarke

17-05-16

And dreaming on

*****

THIS was never intended to be a big hitting musical, but it has won over the public in a remarkable way to become a Biblical blockbuster. And it seems to get better every time you see it.

Now on tour and wowing audiences everywhere, this unique show by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice has the lot . . . great music, wonderful songs, colour, drama and buckets of emotion.

See it for the first time, and you will want to book a seat the next occasion it arrives in town, and there were joyful scenes in the first night audience as the finale approached and Joseph’s amazing dreamcoat was unfurled.

Heading the cast is another Joe – Joe McElderry – a chart-topper since winning TV’s The X Factor in 2009, and the best man I have seen in the role of Joseph in recent years.

He has a wonderful voice which nearly lifts the roof in Any Dream Will Do, and he receives outstanding support from Narrator Lucy Kay, a 26-year-old soprano with a crystal clear voice which ensures you hear every word.

The story of how Joseph is sold by his 11 jealous brothers but becomes a Pharaoh’s favourite because of his ability to interpret dreams is beautifully told, and Emiliano Stamatakis is a stunning Elvis lookalike soundalike, white-suited Pharaoh who even gets an extra song in this Bill Kenwright production. He deserves it.

The Joseph Choir, lining each side of the stage, is provided by youngsters from Stagecoach of Sutton Coldfield and Solihull, and they make very important contributions to a delightful show with so many highlights and a happy ending which has a large section of the audience on their feet, swaying to the music.

It’s amazing, and it would be a sin to miss it.

To 21.05.16

Paul Marston 

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