High Def Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat
Back once again like a renegade master, this timeless classic has been revamped for the modern age, a High Def version if you like and, as one would expect from a show which centres on such a range of colours, it really benefits from the use of 'new age' technology and choreography.
The story of the Lloyd Webber /Rice musical collaboration is probably as well known as the biblical story of Joseph itself; for many it is their first foray into musical theatre either as a child on a school trip or playing a part in a school production. As such, as you settle into your seat and the first few bars of the opening overture build, there is a comforting warmth of knowing contentment, but with this comes the danger that familiarity breeds contempt. Well, fear not, for this production is as fresh and dazzling as a first year show trying to get an extension.
Jaymi Hensley (who found his fame as a member of pop group Union J) has a hard act to follow, the alumni of previous Josephs reads like a who’s who of musical theatre but, after 30 years of watching, it is my opinion that his is the best performance I have ever seen. Naive at the start, powerful and confident by the end, he takes the audience through Joseph’s journey from young boy to kings confidante with complete believability. His renditions of the two standards, Any Dream and Close Every Door are given real depth, emotion and gravitas, breathing new meaning into the words and, even after 30 years, surprising with the feelings they stir - the bar is now set super high for any future wannabees Joes.
Trina Hill as the narrator is inspired; Hill takes centre stage regardless of where she stands, has all eyes on her without demanding any attention and has the perfect voice to tell the story. This is one of the hardest roles to perform in musical theatre, it needs verbal gymnastics linked to an impeccable memory to keep track of all the brothers and colours, there needs to be sympathy, empathy, passion and no small amount of humour, it all has to be kept within the frame of being a storyteller and Hill manages it with aplomb.
The rest of the supporting cast have boundless energy, which is just as well as Gary Lloyd has the choreography turned up to 11. Flappers, cowgirls, vamps, Frenchmen and of course, camels, all test the repertoire and all are fabulously performed with no shortage of humour – there is plenty of references to other musical theatre, pop culture and even a cameo by Jersey Boys. Nick Richings’ lighting design is particularly worthy of mention, never have the colours been so pure, so vibrant and clear - High Def theatre for the High Def era.
So, for lifelong fans and new additions to the Joseph family, get your tickets, warm up your camel and head on down to the Hippodrome but be prepared not to leave early, the cast clearly love what they do and respond to the audience demands for encores; with standing ovations guaranteed at every performance you're going to get at least 3 additional numbers at the end.