There was a time that every Tom, Dick and Joseph professional musical theatre company, school production, amateur musical society, UK and Ireland touring company and the local garage choral group was enthusiastically presenting some kind of a production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Or in the case of the garage production, Joe and The Amazing Technicolor Re-Spray. Worryingly, the singular colour of sugary pink has taken over the musical theatre stages in a plethora of Legally Blondes of late and we wonder whether this means the end of Poor Poor Joseph. Well no, not at all, there was a national pro tour in 2017 and Joseph still has a huge fan base who will return time after time to see their favourite show. This current production by Nottingham Operatic Society proves this by being a complete sell out.
So the question is; have the hugely popular Nottingham Operatic Society chosen well in their revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s early 1970s musical theatre story of Joseph and his brothers, retold through various musical styles? Does the coat of many colours still dazzle brilliantly or has it become worn out and simply faded and shrunk a little in the big wash of time?
Actually the word ‘amazing’ is very apt to describe this tremendously alive production of ‘Joseph’ and its eager ensemble do it full justice from opening scene to the last curtain call. Blown away are thoughts of this golden oldie not being allowed to shine properly anew as Nottingham Operatic bring a real vitality and tons of well choreographed and beautifully sung youthfulness into every scene. It is, to use a phrase that is probably very rarely if indeed ever, exploited by reviewers, a ‘dream’ of a production.
… a ‘dream’ of a production.
From a show that had its genesis at the Colet Court School in London in 1968 and, subsequently, has had over 200,000 productions produced worldwide, Nottingham Operatic’s show adds its own high production values admirably to the list. It is interesting that this particular ALW and Tim Rice show has almost no dialogue and thereby becomes an early example of a sung through musical.
Of course we have the well known songs, ‘Any Dream Will Do’, ‘Close Every Door’ and plenty of others like ‘Benjamin Calypso’, ‘Poor Poor Joseph’ and ‘One More Angel In Heaven’ that tell the biblical story of the once family favourite suddenly made an outcast. For musical theatre value this show has it all and is very much a family show. The proper delight would be to be a young person who has no history of knowing the show and coming to it for the first time and revelling in its many colours. How cool would that be?
Dave Partridge directs and choreographs this show with a vibrant colour palate and technical aplomb whilst equally allowing musical director Morven Harrison’s orchestra to shine musically on every perfect note.
The Egyptian inspired set works terrifically in allowing us to move from scene to scene unencumbered by complex set changes. It has bags of modern style and works well in communion with the angled and atmospheric lighting rig and lamps.
This evening we see Mark Coffey-Bainbridge as a full voiced and charmingly witty Joseph. This role is shared throughout the week with Zac Charlesworth. Another shared role is that of the narrator. This evening we’re enjoying a confident, caring and vocally sound performance by Louise Grantham. Kate Williams plays the role in some other performances.
This is very much an ensemble piece with the stage constantly busy with vital performers of all ages adding their voices, their movement skills and characters throughout. The French inspired ‘Those Canaan Days’ song proves one of the highlights of the evening for this reviewer. The additional female support and characterisations in this spectacular piece works especially well and it is a delight to see the younger children in the cast too.
On the whole the diction of the cast is clear and sharp and the company supplying the dry ice smoke machine can be confident that it works – perhaps a little too enthusiastically.
The Joseph MegaMix at the end is a perfect end to a joyous evening at Nottingham Theatre Royal.
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Phil Lowe is a member of UK Theatre