Updated: Mar 31, 2022
Michael Harrison / The Really Useful Group
Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber
Opera House, Manchester
March 23-April 2, 2022; 2hr 15min
Jac Yarrow (Joseph) and the company of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Famously written for a school concert over 50 years ago, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat feels firmly embedded in the fabric of UK theatre.
It seems everyone past a certain age has tales of either being in the show while at school, or seeing it when they were younger. Such is the enduring appeal of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice’s enjoyable and family-friendly musical about Joseph, his 11 brothers and a very Rock 'n' Roll Pharaoh.
This new tour, direct from the London Palladium, sees the West End cast of Jac Yarrow (Joseph), Alexandra Burke (Narrator) and Jason Donovan (Pharaoh) all reprise their roles, which feels a somewhat rare treat for regional audiences.
Tim Rice's beautifully rhyming and witty lyrics are the real stars of the show of course - that they still seem fresh and funny is testament to their brilliance, and that of Lloyd Webber's tunes, which stick in your head for hours after one hearing.
This, combined with Laurence Connor's fast-paced direction, Morgan Large's colourful and luxurious set and costume design, and Joann M Hunter's exuberant and clever choreography, makes Joseph a treat of a show whatever your age.
The titular role was a first professional role and star-making turn in London for Yarrow, and it’s easy to see why. He combines an interesting mix of boyish yet steely charm with a beautifully controlled voice. His Any Dream Will Do may have brought a tear to the eye of more audience members than just this reviewer, while Close Every Door was the ‘gives you chills’ showstopper it should be, with some truly thrilling vocal choices.
Alexandra Burke excels in the demanding role of the narrator, barely leaving the stage all evening. A powerful voice is a given for the former X-Factor winner-turned-musicals star, but Burke proves she is more than this, owning the stage with a likeable and good-humoured performance. This production sees the narrator take on other roles - such as Jacob, and Potiphar's saucy wife - with which Burke has a lot of fun.
The casting by producer Michael Harrison of Donovan is a masterstoke. After famously playing Joseph 30 years ago in the West End, Donovan now takes the cameo role of Pharaoh, allowing him to ham it up as an ageing Elvis and acknowledge the audience’s obvious delight at seeing him back in the show - albeit no longer in the infamous loincloth.
A lovely staging makes more of the junior performers. Not sidelined as a children’s choir, here they are fully involved in the production in a variety of roles throughout - their fake beards, small statures and big voices lending an endearing vibe to the production. All of the children do a fantastic, very professional job, but on press night Mateo Lechea as Potipher, Dylan Brooks as the Baker and Holly Jade Roberts as the Butler all deserved special praise.
And credit must also go to the hard-working ensemble, which excels throughout - and really gets the chance to shine in the large-scale production numbers. From tap to line-dancing by way of an unexpected can-can, it's fabulous to behold. The tongue-in-cheek Those Canaan Days is an unexpectedly hilarious highlight - fully appreciated by the audience, judging by the ovation it received.
Joseph's still got it then - and this production is a genuinely joyous spectacle of a show: so go go go!
Info and tickets here