Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat – Review – Leeds Grand, 2019
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat – Review
Leeds Grand Theatre, May 2019
by Sandra Callard
The country is old Caanan in Galilea, and once again the eleven scheming and jealous brothers (bar one) of Joseph are up to their tricks in the musical that theatre-goers never seem to tire of, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. This time the gloriously-robed Joseph is played by a relative newcomer, the excruciatingly-spelt Jaymi Hensley, and the tough and demanding role of the Narrator is sung by Trina Hall.
Joseph is a non-stop, crowded and colourful jamboree. It has humour and sadness, tragedy and joy, and the wonderful early, and possibly best, music that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice ever wrote. The conspiratorial brothers deliver outstanding performances, and somehow win the hearts of the audience in spite of their naughty stuff.
“Glorious at times”
The numerous scenes change rapidly with very little effort, as the locations are represented swiftly and easily by one or two significant props; a goat swiftly being dismembered, some wonderful blow-up sheep, or a camel’s head representing a desert caravan. The basic large scenery is static, and the additional and amusing props quickly set the upcoming scene.
The well-known story of a favourite son, Joseph, being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers is cleverly and succinctly told, and Hensley carries off the part with relative ease and a few stumbles. His voice is good, even glorious at times, but small failings such as his voice dropping at the end of a phrase making the words inaudible, are annoying. He strikes a good dramatic effect bodywise, despite occasionally – and rather charmingly – coming across as a little too gentle.
Trina Hall offers a sustained and polished role as the Narrator. On stage almost 100% of the time, her voice only lost its bell-like quality towards the end of the show, when the strain began to show and her voice lost some of its purity.
One of the best comedy parts in Joseph has always been the Pharaoh. His appearance is large, loud and wonderfully naff. Usually dressed in the full Pharoah regalia, including headress and Egyptian beard as appears on images of Tutankhamun, he then assumes the persona of Elvis Presley and belts out some great songs, swivelling hips and trembling lip galore.
However, this time Pharaoh, played by Andrew Geater, is attired quite normally and accomplishes an excellent Elvis, both physically, facially and vocally, but the lack of the Pharaoh costume is a bit of a let-down. Geater, however, has an excellent voice, both as an Elvis impersonator and when singing in his own voice. He is a tall and handsome man, maybe too much so for a droll comedy part, but his singing is exemplary.
“A theatre phenomenon”
A couple of the smaller roles caught my attention. Joseph’s father, Jacob, beautifully played by Henry Metcalfe with a moving and poignant dignity, makes a significant contribution. And the youngest son, Benjamin (played by Alex Hetherington), a full brother to Jacob, who took no part in the crimes of his elders, also put his minor, but solid, stamp on the musical. I watched his face as he realised with joy who the important man at the court of the Pharoah actually is, and it could have stood tall in a Shakespeare play.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is a theatre phenomenon. It premiered 51 years ago in 1968 and has had revival after revival. It fills theatres with no problem, and the perpetual anticipation of the curtain call and sing-along with hands clapping, heads bobbing and an audience that knows every word of the songs, is intoxicating. Carry on Joseph!!
images: Pamela Raith Photography