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A joyous technicolored evening out at Richmond!



Review by David Munro

I SHUDDER to think how many productions and tours there have been of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat since its first performance at Colet Court School on March 1, 1968 – 37 years ago.

At that time, it was only 15 minutes long but was extended for the first record issued in 1969 to 20 minutes.

This record, though not a great success in the UK, became a best-selling album in the USA after Jesus Christ Superstar premiered there.

However, it was the Young Vic production at the Edinburgh festival in 1972, which resulted in the West End Premiere the following year (after a short stop at the Roundhouse on the way).

By now, the score was 40 minutes long but still not long enough for the West End, so Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a one act prequel, with dialogue by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, entitled Jacob’s Journey, which portrayed the Jacob, Esau and Isaac story.

This was phased out during the West End run and hasn’t, to the best of my knowledge, been heard of again. The result was that Joseph was expanded yet again to over an hour’s length and this was the version which toured throughout the UK and was performed in schools and academies both in the UK, US and elsewhere.

By the time of its New York premiere in 1982, there had been at least five revivals in London and the show was now padded out with reprises and dances to an acceptable length for an evening’s theatre.

This pattern of revivals and tours was maintained during the latter years of the last century and the first years of this, the latest revival is still running in the West End concurrently with a touring version now appearing at Richmond.

I can’t imagine there is anyone who does not know the plot of Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt by his envious brothers, who obtains rank and wealth and has the ultimate satisfaction of having his treacherous brothers coming to him for help.

The role of Joseph has been played by host of well-known singing actors although now it appears to be the refuge of singers fleeing from pop bands who are anxious to make a name for themselves and assert their individuality.

The Joseph at Richmond is played by Graham Tudor. He has a strong, if slightly unmusical voice, a good stage presence and a determination to make the audience give him the acceptance he so obviously feels he deserves.

He wears his technicolor dreamcoat with assurance although without it he appears more paunchy than raunchy, which somewhat detracts from the glamour of the part.

Abigail Jaye, as the Narrator, carries out her expository role with charm and ease. At times, I wondered whether she had studied Maria Friedman’s performance in the video a little to closely but hers was none the worse for that. I suspect she is a name to watch out for in the future.

Jacob was played by Christopher Jay who doubled the part of Potiphar. He also has a good voice and differentiated between the roles adeptly.

The 11 brothers, whom I have never been able to disentangle even though they are introduced during the action, carried the brunt of the evening’s dancing. Their energy seemed boundless especially during the hoe down number in the first act.

The girls in the cast had the thankless tasks of handmaidens, camels, temple girls, etc in support of the macho brothers which they carried out decoratively and with considerable terpsichorean skill in their own right.

The songs were underscored by a choir of children from local schools whose voices filled out the Lloyd Webber music pleasantly.

The all-purpose set designed by Sean Cavanagh comprised of a series of ascending tiers with a walkway from under which further stairs or bits of scenery emerged when required.

It was simple and effective and allowed the children’s choir to remain seated at the side of the stage during the action.

The costumes, which were as varied and as multi-coloured as the eponymous coat, enhanced the general elegance of the production.

At the end of the day, the success or otherwise of Joseph, which is really a dramatic cantata not a stage piece, depends on the director and, as always, Bill Kenwright and his associate director and choreographer, Henry Metcalfe, turned in a thoroughly professional job with some delightful bits of business such as a singing camel in the caravan which carries Joseph to Egypt.

I have not seen the current production in the West End, but if it is as half as good as this one then it must be well worth seeing as this one is very, very good (and with cheaper seats!).

I thoroughly recommend that you make your way to Richmond and see this production before it moves on, if you want a joyous technicolored evening out.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Music – Andrew Lloyd Webber Lyrics – Tim Rice.
Director – Bill Kenwright.
Designer – Sean Cavanagh.
Lighting - Nick Ritchings.
Sound – Chris Full.
Choreographer / Associate Director – Henry Metcalfe.
Musical Director – Gareth Ellis.

CAST: Graham Tudor; Abigail Jaye; Christopher Jay; Marlon Moore; Charlotte Hall; David Craik; Mark Morgan; Gareth Chart; Martin Dickinson; Aaron Romano; Stuart King; Philip Coyle; Dean Nolan; Gregory Bradley; Dani McCallum; Naomi Slater; Joshua Martin.
Produced by Bill Kenwright by special arrangement with The Really Useful Group.
Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, Surrey TW9 IQJ
Mon, June 20 – Sat, June 25, 2005
Evenings 7.45.pm.
Matinees Wed. & Sat. 2.30pm.
Box Office: 0870 060 6651

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