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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - New Wimbledon Theatre and on tour (review)

Joe McElderry in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (c)Mark Yeoman

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE TAG line for Bill Kenwright’s 2017 touring production of what is unarguably one of the most popular musicals of all time is simply ‘Joe is Joseph’, so when Joe turns out to be Joe McElderry, you would assume that Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is in safe hands.

And you would be right, for here is a young man who has faced the challenges of following in the illustrious footsteps of Jason Donovan, Phillip Schofield and Lee Mead and with his engaging stage presence and “vocal flair that’s utterly ravishing” (The Stage) made the role his own. In other words, Joseph is Joe.

As many of you will already know, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical is an irreverent but inoffensive take on the Old Testament tale of Joseph, his eleven brothers and the coat of many colours, with musical numbers written in a variety of styles.

These include Elvis-inspired rock ‘n’ roll (Song of the King), 1920’s Charleston (Potiphar), Calypso (Benjamin Calypso) and 1950’s music (Go, Go, Go Joseph) and in this production, as is often the case, costume changes reflect the various styles. It’s a combination that will almost certainly set toes tapping and bring smiles to faces.

McElderry is admirably supported by an energetic and talented cast although special mention must go to Lucy Kay (Britain’s Got Talent) as the Narrator and Ben James-Ellis (a semi-finalist on the hit TV show Any Dream Will do) as Pharaoh.

Kay’s vocal range – from something akin to a gentle caress to a glass-shattering high – never loses its melodious quality while James-Ellis’ take on Elvis is spot on. And giving Pharaoh more welcome stage time is the inclusion of a new song, King Of My Heart, which cleverly weaves a number of Elvis song titles into the lyrics.

Sean Cavanagh’s set design magically conjures images of Canaan and ancient Egypt (only the sheep weren’t playing) and here special praise must go to the backstage folk, those unsung heroes who keep the wheels of a production moving and in the case of a touring production, dismantle, transport and reassemble the pieces in a relatively short space of time.

Joseph has now completed its run at New Wimbledon Theatre but there’s still ample opportunity to see this excellent production at Dartford, Hastings, Torquay, Portsmouth, Edinburgh, Malvern, Shrewsbury, Bradford, Preston, Nottingham, Bristol, Cardiff and Londonderry.

I saw it at Wimbledon with two of my young grandsons, the youngest of whom is only seven. It was his first taste of ‘grown up’ theatre and he was enchanted, bobbing along to the beat and clapping his hands in appreciation along with the rest of us – which undoubtedly makes this a family show not to be missed.

Read more about Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.