Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
The Metropolitan Musical Theatre Company of SA - Arts Theatre. 5-14 May
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat had humble beginnings. It was first created as an item for an Easter concert given in 1968 by St Paul's School in London. After the success of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970, Joseph was resurrected, dusted off, re-vamped and is now one of Lloyd Webber’s most popular musicals.
The storyline follows the biblical story from the Book of Genesis of Joseph who is sold into slavery to Ishmaelites by his jealous brothers, is on-sold to the wealthy Potiphar, is thrown into prison for being far too attractive to Potiphar’s wife, becomes known for his ability to interpret dreams, and eventually puts this skill to work for Pharaoh Rameses of Egypt. In the service of Pharaoh he is eventually reunited with his brothers whom he forgives.
Lloyd Webber employs an eclectic range of musical styles, including country and western (‘One More Angel In Heaven’), Charleston (‘Potiphar’), disco (‘Go, Go, Go Joseph’), Elvis Presley styled rock and roll (‘Song of the King’), send-ups of French ballads (‘Those Canaan Days’), and Reggae (‘Benjamin Calypso’). As with many others, this production by the Metropolitan Musical Theatre Company of SA reflects the various musical styles in the costuming and scenery, and director Trish Spence sets the action in modern day Nevada. Jacob and his sons become ranch owners, the Ishmaelites become itinerant flower power hippies (and Joseph becomes their ‘love slave’), Potiphar is a shady businessman who made his millions through pyramid schemes, and Pharaoh is the owner of the Luxor Casino at Las Vegas. These attempts by Director Trish Spence to provide a “vibrant, new interpretation” are amusing and give the show freshness, but they still play second fiddle to the ever-popular musical numbers, which were performed very well by the large cast.
Ellyanne Bradford sang the Narrator’s role with confidence. With sensitive amplification by Allpro Audio, her gentle soprano voice cut above the orchestra without shrillness. She ably led the confident children’s chorus, who sang and danced their way through the show. Angus Birdseye was excellent in the title role of Joseph – he acted and sang with purpose – and the iconic song ‘Any Dream Will Do’ was executed with warmth and sincerity. However, his treatment of ‘Close Every Door’ was so intense that the simple beauty of the haunting melody wavered at times. Greg Hart was outstanding as Pharaoh and, as should be the case, stole the show with a fabulous interpretation of ‘Song of the King’. This was the theatrical high point of the show, where lighting, set design, costuming, choreography, solo and ensemble signing, orchestra and audio all combined perfectly. Robert Reid looked benevolent and wise as Jacob, and less so as the Guru! The male chorus of brothers was ably led by Mason Somerville in a gutsy rendition of ‘Those Canaan Days’, and the sustained notes were breathtaking! ‘Benjamin Calypso’ was also great fun.
Spence’s set design employed simple trucks that could be moved around to create various settings, flown scenery, and a vast array of rear projections that added to the sense of humour and drama. Ben Stefanoff’s musical direction was tight, and the ensemble disciplined. The overtures for both acts could have been more spirited. Costume design throughout was good, and the matching of colours of the costumes of the brothers and their wives was a nice touch. Joseph’s amazing coat was a veritable kaleidoscope of colour. Carmel Vistoli’s choreography was as diverse as the musical styles. It was enjoyable, in keeping with the music, and, for the most part, was accurately performed by the cast.
The ‘Joseph Megamix Curtain Call’ was an explosion of energy, colour and pure joy. Well done to the Met for a most enjoyable evening.
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