After 45 years, you might think a musical would lose its shine, but there’s something about Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat that still lights up an audience. Tonight’s performance at Derby Theatre is testament to that, with a capacity crowd giving a standing – or rather, dancing – ovation. This is a sparkly unicorn of a show, brimming with energy, bursting with colour, and verging on the fantastical.
The biblical story of Joseph, the favourite son of Jacob and talented interpreter of dreams, is a well known one, thanks primarily to the musical. But it is a story that everyone can relate to: the family tensions, the bullying by his older brothers. Alright, the exiling and dream-reading may not be everyday for most of us, but we all love an underdog who comes out on top. Its longevity lies in the skill of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice in creating catchy and witty songs, echoing many well-known musical styles, and not taking themselves too seriously.
The Narrator tells the story, and in this production is played by Trina Hill as a sort of magical, favourite teacher, rather like Mary Poppins without the strict bits. It’s a hugely demanding role, as not only does she have to actually explain the whole story and make it discernible to the audience, it’s mostly done at the most extraordinarily high pitch. Hill somehow makes it seem effortless, moving from a breathy whisper to full on belt and everywhere in between, with ease and grace. Her expression is so natural and warm, you want to invite her round for tea.
In this Bill Kenwright touring production, Joseph is played by Jaymi Hensley. Hensley follows in the tradition of casting a ‘pop’ singer in the role and is a member of Union J, X-Factor contestants in 2012, which may explain some of the adoring screaming in the audience. Hensley has a powerful singing voice, well controlled and suited to the role, and portrays the ‘otherness’ of Joseph through his demeanour and rather upper-class delivery. He has good comedy timing, and the comic element is maximised throughout.
Another tradition in the show is a children’s choir, and on this occasion, it is provided by local group The Attic Theatre School. Principal Amanda Grimsey must be very proud of this talented and disciplined group, who deal with close sung harmonies, synchronised actions and lots of sitting still, extremely well. They sound delightful.
What really rips the stage up and set’s it alight, though, is the joy brought to it by ‘The Brothers’. Each new song brings on higher levels of energy, more ambitious choreography and so much sass! These boys embrace the camp outfits and the tongue in cheek lyrics, and wring every ounce of enjoyment out of every song. I could not wipe the grin off my face every time they performed a big dance routine, thanks to choreographer Gary Lloyd.
With its panoply of well-known songs, such as Any Dream Will Do, Close Every Door and One More Angel in Heaven, ‘Josephs’ popularity seems guaranteed. The audience, from grandparents down to the youngest children, clearly love the show. This touring version is chock full of vitality and takes the idea of ‘technicolour’ to a whole new level. It’s a kaleidoscopic rainbow of musical theatre dreams.
Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs at Derby Theatre Tue 18-Sat 22 June.
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