Theatre review: Joseph lives up to classic status

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat

The appeal of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was how easily it can take you way, way back many centuries ago. The biblical costumes, the evocative scenery.

To my own childhood in fact. Joseph has been around so long that most adults watching it at the Royal and Derngate last night will already have seen it as younger versions of ourselves.

I had last seen a live version on an English trip to London, and I overheard others last night reminiscing about either school plays or West End performances of Philip Schofield, Jason Donovan and Donny Osmond.

But what keeps us coming back to it? The obvious unchanging thread since 1973 has been the music.

The legendary Tim Rice / Andrew Lloyd Webber machine hit its richest vein of form when they wrote the tunes and lyrics for Joseph. Almost without exception each one gives that tell-tale feeling of being so right for the scene. The tunes stick in your head like brain velcro.

And once again last night the feelings they evoke came flooding back as the superb cast filled the stage with all the energy and brightness that Joseph requires.

Keith Jack, who was runner-up in the BBC1 show Any Dream Will Do, played the title character and didn’t look second best to anyone.

Not only was his the stand-out voice among much talent, his little-boy-lost look fitted exactly and left us needing little effort to imagine him as the hard-done-to brother.

The 11 other brothers were excellent in their too, selling their group numbers with great comic acting as well as tremendously satisfying and precise mass dancing that was among the highlights of the night.

In fact everywhere you cared to look brought a smile to your face.

The exuberance of the whole cast was pitched just right, the children’s choir (aah-aah-aah!) sounded as good as a studio recording and seemed to be having the best night of their lives, and the lead female singers were improbably good-looking.

The blend of all their voices was perfection at times.

It is hard to fault this production at all. If I was being picky then playing a few minutes of instrumental excerpts from the songs before the curtain came up were not strictly necessary, but even that was just because the audience were itching to get to the action.

No, I can’t think of a single reason why anyone who wants to leave the theatre humming some of the best-ever West End tunes with a daft grin on their faces would not want to be transported back through time by this almost faultless production.

A true delight.