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Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Liverpool Empire ****1/2

Between them they may have gone on to give the world Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom, Evita, Chess and The Lion King (to name just a few).

But half-a-century after it was professionally premiered, the comparatively modest Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat remains perhaps Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s freshest, funniest and most enjoyable slice of musical theatre.

This touring version of the 2019 London Palladium revival, complete with its same stellar casting, is an amazing Technicolor treat from start – under starry constellations – to ‘megamix’ finish a crisp two hours later.

That casting reunites Linzi Hateley and Jason Donovan who were both still in their early 20s when they played the Narrator and Joseph respectively in the famous 1991 Palladium blockbuster production that really put the musical on the map.

Donovan was back in the coat of many colours last weekend, albeit for one night only, moonlighting in the Mall as part of the Platinum Jubilee Party at the Palace.

The current ‘day’ job however involves him stepping in to the skimpy gold robes of Rice and Lloyd Webber’s Elvis-styled Pharaoh, complete with curling lip and hip swivels, and he evidently has a lot of fun in the midst of designer Morgan Large’s gold and hieroglyphics encrusted palace complete with guitar-wielding statues of Egyptian gods. Uh-huh-huh.

Above: Linzi Hateley and the Joseph cast. Top: Jason Donovan as Pharaoh and Jac Yarrow as Joseph. Photos by Tristram Kenton.

Hateley meanwhile reprises her original Narrator’s role, proving herself a delightfully warm, wry and witty storyteller – and at one point in a broad ‘Scouse’ accent to boot. Unusually, she also doubles as patriarch Jacob and as Potifer’s predatory wife. Perhaps it was a Covid casting call which has stuck.

And in the East (West, North, South and centre) is Jac Yarrow’s winning Joseph, the cocky, prodigal seer of visions who antagonises his siblings to the point where they sell the insufferable little toad into slavery.

Yarrow won the role at the Palladium three years when fresh out of drama school, and it can’t be easy to know you’re following in the footsteps of a famous line of previous Josephs (particularly with one of them right there on stage with you).

But he has a very pleasing, naturally confident stage presence and delivers his songs – including Close Every Door - with beautiful melodic clarity and power.

To be honest though, he could sing in a whisper and it would still reach the back of the upper circle due to the show’s booming sound system amplifying proceedings to ear splitting levels. When the full cast and the crack band in the pit both get going, the decibel levels get almost painfully high.

Above: Close Every Door...Jac Yarrow as Joseph

The initial incarnation of Dreamcoat was first performed by schoolchildren as a 15-minute pop cantata, and it’s always been a favourite of young theatregoers – I remember a school trip to see it more than 40 years ago.

And there were plenty of young faces in the Empire audience as well as on stage, where not only the chorus but several key characters are also played by child actors including Potifer, four of Joseph’s brothers and the Pharaoh’s butler and baker.

The adult ensemble of brothers and wives are the show’s real engine room, and the big ensemble numbers – choreographed by Joann M Hunter - look and sound fantastic, particularly One More Angel in Heaven and Rice and Lloyd Webber’s comic French pastiche Those Canaan Days which is joyously and oh-so-tragically delivered against a washed out, (all) washed-up background.

Large’s simple but striking Technicolor set is complemented by Ben Cracknell’s lighting in a production whose high production values shine through.

Go, Go, Go, Joseph indeed.


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