Friday, 6 October 2017

Theatre Review: Joseph

Image Source: Liverpool Live TV
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Musical
Genre: Musical
Date: October 3 2017
Location: Liverpool Empire Theatre

There are two things that you think of when you hear Any Dream Will Do. The first is Jason Donovan, whose has had an eccentric career in multiple forms of entertainment but is still remembered by most for this one song. The second is Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the stage show from which this timeless tune originated.

And it's this show, with the shortened title of Joseph, which flies into Liverpool Empire with a bang, delivering some great music, fantastic scenery and eye-catching costumes which are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. It's a show which will capture the imagination of those who have never seen it before, but one which will also provide plenty of entertainment for the generation who have seen Jason Donovan, Philip Schofield and others play the title role.

Here, the main character is played by Joe McElderry of X-Factor fame (it's handy that Joe is playing Joseph, isn't it?), and he does a good job in not only singing (which of course is McElderry's strong point), but also in demonstrating his acting talents and range of facial expressions to ensure that the spotlight would always be on him whenever necessary. With the plot revolving around him, of course, it's only natural that our eyes remained locked on Joseph throughout.

As for the story: based on the biblical tale of Joseph from the Book Of Genesis, the show charts the story of Joseph, whose brothers grow jealous of his coat, which boasts the colours of the rainbow and many more. Multiple attempts to get rid of him eventually result in him being sold off as a slave in Egypt to the millionaire Potiphar (Henry Metcalfe). He is later imprisoned, making his plight worse, but a discovery of his talents for translating the most bizarre of dreams and helping them to come true results in his salvation. Over time, Joseph builds prestige and manages to become a hero rather than a pariah, but his own dream is to return home and to regain his magical coat.

The story is told entirely through song; the moments when the music drops and we only hear the characters speaking rather than singing are extremely limited. So it's a credit to the performers, and to the script, that at no point does the show become boring or repetitive. This is helped by Trina Hill, a narrator of sorts whose own stunning vocal talents combined with the amount of hard work she has to put into her performance (she is involved in almost every scene) make her arguably the star of the show. It's a strong cast, though, and the Joseph choir from Performers Theatre School, who are present throughout the show and contribute to the bigger musical numbers, add a nice touch and a more positive feeling to the plot, even during scenes where Joseph is mentally and physically put at risk.

The show flies by, partly due to the fact that its duration only slightly surpasses two hours. As noted earlier, the settings are absolutely spectacular, and I don't want to provide spoilers here; I will just say that you will be wowed by the backdrops, for which great effort has clearly been invested. (That being said, there are in-jokes, such as the Eiffel Tower being represented by a quick fade onto a white backdrop on the main screen.) Some parts were a little confusing (mixing Elvis Presley with the Book Of Genesis seemed pretty strange), but I had never seen the show, and for the vast majority in attendance who had, this was all part of the unique, dynamic, memorable and professional experience that Joseph delivers. With fabulous vocals, spirited performances, cool dancing and an audience which would sing along and become part of the show when required, all mixed with an uplifting climax, Joseph delivered in almost every area possible.

Overall, then, the current version of Joseph is a faithful, captivating and highly entertaining retelling of a familiar tale, and one that the whole family will enjoy, especially those who have seen the show before and who want to take it all in again.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 - Excellent

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