Monday, April 22

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Liverpool Empire

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a musical show collaboratively written by musical theatre legends Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber, based on an Old Testament bible story. For those not familiar with the story, it is about Jacob who has a large family of twelve sons.  He has more affection for one of his sons, Joseph, and favours him over his eleven brothers. He has a special multi-coloured coat made for him and this causes jealousy among the brothers, so they decide to sell Joseph into slavery; after doing so they take his beautiful multi-coloured coat back to their father telling him that his beloved son has been killed.

Joseph has an ability to interpret dreams and his predictions for people had proved correct prior to being in captivity.  This comes to the notice of Pharaoh and consequently he becomes Pharaoh’s go-to man, successfully leading the country through a period of severe famine. His starving brothers go to Egypt to beg him for food but don’t recognise their brother. Joseph plays a trick on his younger brother, Benjamin and the brothers become united again.

My first memories of the show are of my children performing the songs at their school assembly over thirty years ago; we had a recording of the show on a cassette tape which was played over and over again.  Fast forward almost twenty years later when I saw Lee Mead play Joseph at the London Palladium after winning Andrew Lloyd Webber’s TV series, Any Dream Will Do. I have fond memories of that show as I enjoyed it so much.

©Tristram Kenton

This is a completely different production starring Jac Yarrow, as Joseph who slipped into the multi-coloured coat with ease. It is a new up-dated version which may not be to the liking of all who see it but judging by the reception it received last night, it was a firm hit. I was disappointed that the most beautiful end to the story when Joseph wears his coat of many colours again, didn’t happen; I then thought maybe the encore would include it but to my regret it didn’t.

Also, some of the group numbers made the story harder to follow, which obviously isn’t an issue for those who know the story, but it could affect the enjoyment for those who don’t know the story so well.

Linzi Hateley did a spectacular job as narrator in this production; her vocals never faltered, and she showed an impressive amount of range and vocal versatility which was astounding.  She is pivotal to the success of the show; she is in almost every scene and didn’t falter once; from interaction with the younger members of the cast, to singing, dancing and riding one of the wheeled camels, she was excellent and carried the show along.  Linzi cleverly incorporated some well-practised Scouse into the script which was positively well-received by the audience.  She was rewarded with magnanimous applause at the end, and she truly deserved it, her performance certainly got the loudest cheers from the audience at the end of the night and recognition from fellow cast members was evident.  Suffice to say she played the role thirty years ago and reprised it at the London Palladium in 2021.

Jason Donovan as the Pharaoh gave an impressive performance as he camped it up ‘a la Elvis’ style, wearing a short, white cape brandishing ‘The King’ emblem on his back.  His legs took on a life of their own as he impersonated the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ at the same time contorting his face in the style of Elvis whilst singing The Song of the King.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

The beautiful set designs and lighting cannot be faulted, although the performance began with the sound being far too loud, but this was soon corrected. Most of the sets in the first half were ablaze with colour whilst the first scene in the second half was resplendent in gold (inside the Pharaoh’s palace) with Bastet statues of Egyptian cat gods, playing guitars and singing and hieroglyphics adorning the walls.

The show incorporated many dancing styles including a hoe down, a cheerleader’s section, tap dancing and a clever Can-Can sequence where the ensemble’s rather drab costumes turned into colourful frilly underskirts worn by French Can-Can dancers.  The impressive dances from the brothers and especially the youngest performers, who were amazing, deserve a mention as their beautiful singing voices and their dance moves were faultless and they provided some brilliant comedy moments too.

It was an energetic, colourful production which stole the hearts of those watching with songs ranging from optimistic ballads, such as Any Dream Will Do, to vaudeville and rock’n’roll infused performances of King of My Heart and Benjamin Calypso plus many others.  

Special mention must be given to the wonderful children in the cast, a reminder of what makes this musical so unique from others, who conducted themselves professionally whilst on stage and their enjoyment was evident along with their vocals which were perfect.

Additionally, the orchestra and conductor deserve a special mention as the musical arrangements, orchestration and execution of the pieces were superb.

It was a full house with a very mixed audience of youngsters with parents, couples and many of the older generation who were dancing and clapping along to the music at the end with everyone else.

For anyone wanting a lively, energetic performance with humour, satire and musical entertainment with lots of singing and dancing, this show will delight; it is bursting with emotion, optimism and a lot of showbiz pizazz having endured for over half a century and still captivating audiences, young and old.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is at Liverpool Empire from 6th to 11th June 2022.

Reviewer: Anne Pritchard

Reviewed: 7th June 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★