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Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is an early work by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice that has been on stage for about 50 years after a gestation period that started in 1968. According to Lloyd Webber’s company Really Useful Group the musical had been staged some 20,000 times by amateurs until 2008 alone. It has received numerous professional productions as well and one wonders if there is anyone left who has not seen it. The current revival at the Princess of Wales Theatre follows the 1992 production in Toronto and judging by the packed theatre there may be many Torontonians who have not seen it.
There was a significant number of young people in the theatre and at times it felt as if they were attending rock concert where enthusiasm and boisterous reaction to whatever was happening on stage was de rigueur.
Joseph tells the Biblical story from Genesis of Jacob’s youngest and favourite son. Joseph’s eleven brothers are jealous of him and get rid of him by selling him as a slave while telling their father that he was killed. Joseph ends up in Egypt where he does not have a good time until he interprets the Pharaoh’s dreams and becomes successful. His brothers do not do well and go to Egypt in search of food. The brothers meet and the musical has a happy ending.
Lloyd Webber and Rice have crafted a written-through musical based on the story using a Narrator (Vanessa Fisher) and, according to the program, 27 other characters and 16 children. That provides a lot of vocal power matched with lively music and high volumes that propel the musical through about two hours of almost relentless motion. There are variations in momentum but I think Joseph relies mostly on propulsion that keeps the audience in thrall to the music and singing.
After the lively prologue by the marvellous Vanessa Fisher as the Narrator and the lovely “Any Dream Will Do” sung by the fine-voiced Jac Yarrow and the children, the show picks up momentum with “Jacob and Sons” sung by the Narrator, Joseph’s brothers and their wives. It is followed with rousing verve by “Joseph’s Coat” and then the more sedate “Joseph’s Dream.”
A camel (on a bicycle) rolls by and Joseph is sold to slavery during several songs with variable tempos culminating in a raucous song and dance as the brothers celebrate the disappearance of Joseph.
The pace slows down when Joseph is thrown in jail, and he sings “Close Every Door” with the children. The mood and the pace pick up in “Go, Go, Go, Joseph” where he comes up as prophetic dream interpreter and we feel we are in a crazy rock concert. Lights flashing in a kaleidoscope of colours, vehement movement and excitement reaching a pitch. End of Act I.
We then meet the Pharaoh (Tosh Wanogho-Maud). Even slow-paced songs end up on a serious crescendo. There is little emotional rest allowed for the audience in this show. The Pharaoh thinks he is a rock star as he grabs a microphone and raises the stakes, the speed and the volume as he sings with the ensemble. The audience goes crazy.
We slow down to see Jacob and his sons who are not having a good time. But not for long. We are given an opportunity to hear Yarrow’s fine voice until we reach the splendid finale with the ensemble and the children singing with Joseph and the Narrator and the energy and excitement generated are immense.
The show is over but there is a postscript, a “megamix” where the full company joins in singing tunes from the show with extraordinary vigour and enthusiasm and the audience simply loves it.
The show relies heavily on the varied lighting designed by Bev Cracknell that enhance the singing and excitement significantly. The choreography by Joann M. Hunter adds to the momentum and Morgan Large’s set and costume design are rich and varied without any attempt or pretence to realistic biblical views.
Laurence Connor keeps a tight control on pace and momentum and the show is propelled to its dazzling end and a standing ovation.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat by Tim Rice (lyrics) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (Music) continues until February 18, 2023 at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. West, Toronto, Ontario.

December 23, 2022

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