An iconic production
A long running classic, it’s unlikely that you’ve never come across the story of Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat. First premiered in 1970, the music and lyrics, written by theatre legends Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice respectively, have seen several West End productions over the years as well as a 1997 film starring Donny Osmond.
For those who haven’t, the plot tells the tale of Joseph in the book of Genesis. The 12th son of Jacob and his obvious favourite, Joseph is betrayed by his eleven jealous brothers and sold as a slave to two passing spice merchants who take him away to Egypt.
Joe McElderry as Joseph
What follows is an extravagant and comical show, awash with blow-up sheep, singing camels and an Elvis-lookalike Pharoah, all ending in a ‘Joseph Megamix’ medley, which left us feeling more like we were at a pop concert than the authentic and elegant venue of Leeds Grand Theatre.
Stellar solo performances
At the raise of the curtain, the audience is given the first peek of the set; a cascading staircase the stage for the local choir ‘Young Showstoppers’ from Heckmondwike, who fill the songs with the oohs and aahs that Joseph just couldn’t be without.
From the start, the decision to cast Joe McElderry in the role as Joseph is with obvious reason. He perfects the comical boasting of his dreams to his brothers – “Your eleven sheaves of corn all turned and bowed down to mine” – and contrasts these with passion and power in the more emotional scenes. His Act I performance of Close Every Door is poignant, building in a crescendo that demonstrates his true vocal talent.
Performances from rest of the cast were a balance of comic timing and vocal perfection. Never missing a note, the sung-through narration from Lucy Kay was phenomenal, piercing the higher octaves with a confidence that showed off her operatic style. Kay was modest in her role, with none of the cringe worthy over-acting often seen in similar pantomime-like shows.
Lucy Kay in her role as the narrator
Emilianos Stamatakis gives a fitting tribute to Elvis in his UK debut as the Pharaoh. The memorable and comical performance of ‘Pharoah’s Story’ features large amounts of swivelling hips and snarling lips, leaving his second solo ‘King of My Heart’ to fall a little flat in comparison.
A complementary chorus
The solo performances are complemented by a fuel-filled chorus made up of the eleven brothers, whose fluidity has them performing in a number of roles throughout the show. The incorporation of different musical styles into the score gives the cast loads to play with. An over-the-top French ballad and they don their berets, a country number and they put on their cowboy hats. With many more stereotyping surprises in-between, each one is pulled off with the same high-energy and accomplished performance.
Anyone would think the audience would be exhausted after such an in-your-face production. Au contraire, the show comes to a head with a pop concert-like medley, which has the audience on their feet and singing along to their favourite songs from the show. McElderry takes the lead, allowing him to relive his X-Factor days where he was born to be, on the stage.
If you’re looking for a mind-blowing cultural experience, this show definitely isn’t for you. If you don’t take yourself too seriously and want a proper chuckle or you want to introduce your children to theatre, then don’t miss out! One thing’s for sure, you’ll be humming ‘Go, Go, Go Joseph’ until the 7 fat cows come home…