June 7, 2008
New Theatre, 2-7 June 2008This show is two hours of unashamedly populist entertainment in a reworked format of the Joseph musical in which some of the TV stars from the Any Dream Will Do talent competition perform comfortably. Country and Western steps feature in many of the dance numbers and cheerleader moves take some of the choreography into the 21st century. Some of the scenes are boldly kitsch, with a walking talking cartoon camel and inflatable sheep grazing in the background. The style of Bill Kenwright’s production keeps the full house (of children and older patrons revisiting the musical) all suitably entertained. Such is the enduring popularity of Lloyd-Webber’s music, primary school groups sing the overture back to the orchestra word perfect.
The mega mix at the finale pops a punchy rap energy that rewards the younger folk for following this biblical story of sibling rivalry turned nasty. The fortunes of poor Joseph are enthusiastically followed. The only time the stage is not alive with flashing lights, fireworks and smoke is when a starkly-lit Joseph is locked in his prison cell after being sold as a slave by his jealous brothers. They celebrate with: ‘We’ve seen the back of brother Jo so let’s join hands and doh-see-doh’.
Holding an ultimately simple story for two hours is the responsibility of Narrator, Tara Bethan (finalist in the TV search for Nancy in Oliver). Like the many familiar faces on stage from TV talent shows, Bethan fills this cavernous auditorium with a big sound. It is perhaps surprising that performers who won their role through performing on the small screen sing so well live.
Joseph is played by the tall and tanned Craig Chalmers, who manages to look terrific in an epic multi-coloured coat that could double as a parachute. The show has a few saucy moments with Mrs Potiphar’s long legs vamping it up in a red sequinned number succeeding in getting Joseph in all sorts of trouble. As berets are raised to those Canaan days some hot adagio steps are executed in high heels and mini skirts by the enthusiastic energetic dancers who freestyle some impressive moves. Pharaoh walking down the stairs with Vegas Elvis panache is a true bobby dazzler and the rendition of King of My Heart is literal. The über fans stand with posters, badges and sheer enthusiasm for this dream of a show.