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 -
36 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
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, and 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
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, USA and elsewhere.
By the time of its New York premiere, in 1982, there had been
at least five revivals in London, and the show padded out with
reprises and dances was an acceptable length for an evening's
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 Wimbledon.
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 a 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 Wimbledon is played by Andrew Derbyshire, an unsuccessful
contestant of TV's Pop Idol, although having seen and heard him,
this surprises me.
He has a good voice, an excellent stage presence, and although
the part does not call for histrionic ability, he gave me the
impression that he had acting skills tucked away somewhere.
Amanda Claire, as the Narrator, has a strong voice, carrying
out her expository role with charm and ease; she, too, appears
to be a name to watch out for in the future.
Jacob was played by Steve Varnom, who doubled the part of Potiphar.
He also has a good voice and, as Potiphar, was slyly amusing,
differentiating 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 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 multi-coloured as the
eponymous coat, looked lavish and 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 very good,
as this one is very, very good and with cheaper seats to boot.
I thoroughly recommend that you make your way to Wimbledon and
see this production before it moves on, if you want a joyous technicolored
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Music, Sir 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: Andrew Derbyshire; Amanda Claire; Steve Varnom; Lee Mead;
Carolyn Sinett; Geoff Hennessy; Robert Jaye; Martin Berry; Gavin
James Burke; Jamie Capewell; Mark Dugdale; A. J. Lewis; Gavin
Woods; Marion Moore; Kevin Litlejohn; Kirsty Mather; Celia Mei
Rubin; Kerry Stammers; Craig Rodgers.
Produced by Bill Kenwright, by special arrangement with The Really
New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1QG.
Evenings: Mon, March 15 - Sat, 20, 2004 @ 7.30pm
Matinees Thurs.& Sat 2.30pm.
Box Office 0870 060 1827.