JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT. Lyrics by Tim Rice. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Directed by Paul Warwick Griffin. Costume design by Niall Griffin. Choreography by Duane Alexander. Musical supervision by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder. Musical direction by Louis Zurnamer. Lighting design by Gareth Hewitt Williams. Sound design by Mark Malherbe. With Earl Gregory, Nadine, Anton Luitingh, Dean Roberts and cast.
REVIEW: Karen Rutter
Way, way back many centuries ago – well, just over four decades, to be precise – the young partnership of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice staged their first public musical. It was actually a short pop cantata performed at a school, but was later developed into what has become one of the most regularly-performed productions in recent times. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a prototype Webber/Rice success: catchy music and lyrics, a non-complex narrative (thanks, Book of Genesis, for the idea), and a cleverly-designed script that allows for strong leads plus a robust support cast.
Since the rock opera was conceived in the late 1960s, there have been literally thousands of versions performed around the globe. Its accessibility has made it a popular choice for school and am-dram groups to replicate, while professional stagings have had fun casting well-known pop stars in the lead roles. Also, because the score features a range of different genres, from rock ‘n roll to Calypso to jazz, it opens the field to all sorts of stylistic shenanigans on stage – which savvy directors and their troupes take up with alacricity.
Zings with energy and pizzaz
Pieter Toerien’s team is no exception – they’ve pounced on the project with a palpable sense of joy, and the result is a production which zings with energy, life, humour and pizzaz. It’s also as camp as a tree full of parrots, with enough eye-candy to keep audiences of all persuasions engaged. This Joseph is an absolute delight, a triple-threat triumph that can be lauded as a true team effort, from the costume designer backstage to the solo singer under the spot.
The story is based on a tale in the Bible, condensed into a two-hour spectacle guided by a Narrator, in which we meet the Joseph of the title, favourite son of Jacob and brother to 11 siblings. Joseph has a gift – he is able to interpret dreams, and predict the future. But his brothers are jealous, and have him shipped off to Egypt, telling his father he is dead. Joseph manages to curry favour with the Egyptian Pharoah by explaining his dreams, and becomes a rich and powerful person. Eventually he reunites with his family and forgives his brothers.
In the title role, Earl Gregory wears his character like smooth second skin, thoroughly inhabiting his Joseph with charm, grace, a beautiful singing voice and a high quotient of cuteness. Stepping up to the pivotal part of the Narrator is Nadine, who also carries off her part with aplomb and powerful vocals. The dual roles of Jacob and Potiphar are played by Dean Roberts, who has particular fun with the latter’s nightclub-styled sashay. And then, of course, there’s the part everybody just loves – the rock ‘n rolling Pharoah, here played as a big part Elvis and a little part Trump by the ridiculously talented Anton Luitingh. The hit numbers – One More Angel in Heaven, Close Every Door, Benjamin Calypso and more – had the audience clapping (and in some cases singing) along.
The ensemble cast carry off Duane Alexander’s dynamic choreography with gusto – no mean feat, considering the scope of the dances and the size of the stage – and there are some delightfully quirky touches – an angel on a hoverboard, a Gupta-powered airline, beaded accessories – that make for a proudly local production.
Director Paul Warrick Griffin and his entire team can feel rightfully chuffed with this offering. It’s slick, sassy, sexy and savvy. Catch it while you can.
What: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Where: The Theatre on the Bay
When: February 17 – 8 April