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'A glorious, colour-drenched riot of joy' - Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at Malvern Festival Theatre

Published by: G.D. Mills on 22nd Mar 2017 | View all blogs by G.D. Mills

There were a couple of ill omens prior to the start of this performance and I wondered if I had made a terrible mistake. First there was a long, rather cheesy musical prelude as we stared at the faux-ancient arras masking the stage, and second, the music itself was reproduced on a keyboard, albeit played live, by an almost manically enthusiastic figure, his head bopping along frenetically to the tinkety beat. When the arras lifted to reveal a ziggurat, populated by tiers of small children, a number of inflated sheep, and Jacob, the superannuated sire, being loaded with a growing number of stuffed dolls to denote his alarming fecundity, I wondered if perhaps now was the time to slip out quietly 

And yet...and the end of the first half I was halfway convinced, and by the end I was as totally swept up by this glorious, colour-drenched, riot of joy as the audience were. Yes, there is a childish element to this production– a talking camel, speech bubbles, a moveable feast of primary colours  - these all feature, and yet they are all of a piece with an explosively visual production that delivers to audiences right across the age range. 


Stripped almost entirely free of spoken dialogue this well known Biblical tale, of a favoured, prodigal son brutally dispossessed then reclaimed by his brothers, is presented entirely through music and movement. And what the backing track lacks in authenticity is more than made up for by the sugary, full bodied vocals. And those tunes, by now so familiar, are given their own stylised tweak so that we are taken on a musical journey to ancient Cairo by way of 1920s Paris, 1950s America and even 21st-century clubland.  

Joe McElderry, much acclaimed winner of The X Factor in 2009, inhabits his role entirely and seduces with a face that is angelic and a voice that is rich and syrupy. His stage presence grows ever larger as the show hurtles towards the finale, by which time he is almost flouncing and shimmying across the stage. He clearly draws a large and vociferous following – never before have I seen this auditorium so prone to spontaneous outbursts of standing applause. Lucy Kay sings boldy and bodaciously as the narrator and Ben James-Ellis delivers an awesome, hip grinding version of a regal, rock n’roll king.  

Credit must also go to Henry Metcalfe (Jacob and Potiphar) whose patriarchal decrepedness stands in stark contrast to the fluid waves of youthful energy that flow around him. 

Exaltant and exuberant, this high-octane production will fuel all your family’s musical needs for months to come. Go see Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat now.


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 1 year ago
    Love this review, Geoff! Thanks
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