Written in 1968, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues to enjoy huge success across the country and is in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest running touring musical of all time.
I went to see the first performance of this run at The Bristol Hippodrome on Tuesday 25th June 2013 with my 9 and 7 year old sons. This is our personal review.
If you were to ask me to quickly name a musical, I would probably panic and break into a clammy sweat, as I perform really badly under direct pressure, but then after a few seconds the famous Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ would probably pop into my head. This familiar musical featured regularly throughout my school years and many of the songs have remained firmly ingrained ever since. Recently my 7 and 9 year old have learnt them at school and they thoroughly enjoy singing them too.
For anyone who doesn’t know the story (apparently not everybody grew up with it!), this is a colourful retelling of the bible story about a dreamer called Joseph, his brothers and a coat of many colours. Jacob is the biblical father to eleven sons who he inadvertently pits against eachother by giving Joseph preferential treatment. This coupled with Joseph’s prophetic dream, which shows his brothers bowing down to him, leads his jealous brothers to get rid of him by selling him into slavery. We follow the resulting story of Joseph’s unfortunate life of slavery and then imprisonment. Eventually the accuracy of his dream readings is realised and the Pharaoh elevates Joseph to a position of authority. When his family turn up in Egypt during the seven years of famine and ask Joseph for food, they don’t initially recognize their estranged brother, but once they have demonstrated their capacity for sibling love and selflessness, the family is at last reunited.
The show began with a lengthy orchestral introduction of tunes from the musical. Even before I had registered this, my 7 year old pointed out
Mummy we did all these songs at school
Once the extended medley finished, a curtain was raised revealing the set. Symmetrical staircases running down either side of the stage provide raked seating for the choir of young children who accompany the adult cast.
The role of Joseph was played by Ian ‘H’ Watkins, a local lad from South Wales, who may be best known for being part of ‘Steps’, one of the biggest selling acts of the nineties, releasing eight albums and selling 20 million records worldwide. As ‘Steps’ has never been on my playlist, Ian’s pop fame alone didn’t guarantee a great performance for me, however he’s previously played the role of Joseph in London’s West End in 2005, so he was likely to be pretty good, wasn’t he?
Ian/Joseph spends most of the show wearing just a little hessian skirt, so if a scantily clad, toned male physique is your bag, then you’re in for a treat!
Seriously, I was really impressed by Ian’s performance. Sung in a dark prison cell with just a dim candle for lighting, his rendition of ‘Close every door’ was beautifully atmospheric and emotional. By contrast, the end of the show involving extensive clapping, fun and audience involvement was surely a happy by-product of many years of pop experience.
I’ve seen this show before but didn’t remember too much about the narrator and yet her role is massive. Played by Jennifer Potts, the narrator is virtually always on stage and is often singing and dancing too. With a great voice and personality, I thought Jennifer did a fabulous job of telling the story and was pivotal to making this a seamless and professional show.
Shortly after the show began, we realised that one of the children performing was the daughter of some good friends of ours. As I have often seen her in a party environment, running around and burning off excess energy with my three boys, I was interested to observe her behaviour under this type of pressure. As the show progressed I realised just how demanding the children’s role was. As well as performing a considerable musical repertoire, along with choreographed actions, they also succeeded in blending into the background, sometimes in the dark and maintaining an almost eerie stillness throughout much of the show. Very professional.
My own children, on the other hand, soon found themselves singing along quite loudly (shushhhh!) to most of the shows classics such as ‘Any Dream Will Do’!
Obviously I don’t want to give too much of the show away but I will say that there were some amusing gems which caused random fits of hilarity amongst the audience, such as:-
Unpredictably collapsing stuffed sheep
A historically inaccurate biblical family photo
A ‘Do si do’ square dance to ‘one more angel in heaven’
A camel singing ‘Poor Poor Joseph’ in just the singing voice I would imagine a camel might have.
Elvis performing in his bejewelled white jumpsuit, surrounded by rock n rolling sphinxes, cheerleaders and a screaming fan. OK, reading it back, that sounds a bit far fetched. Maybe I dreamt that part!?
This famous Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber musical show is jam packed with hits including Jacob and Sons, Close Every Door and Any Dream Will Do. As the songs were so familiar, it was quite a challenge for us to keep quiet and just listen, so I was pleased when at the end of the show the audience was invited to stand and we were finally given license to sing along to our hearts content!
The boys and I thoroughly enjoyed Joseph. I wasn’t keen on the prolonged medley of what seemed to be irrelevant Elvis songs, but apart from that I have no criticism of this production.
It was one of the funniest shows I’ve seen. There was even light relief during the years of famine when we were transported to France. Overlooked by the Eiffel Tower, Joseph’s family sang dolefully, in their stripy shirts and berets, while a stereotypical onion seller trundled past on a bike and the female cast sported unfeasibly short skirts.
It was very family friendly and I found it completely age appropriate for my boys.
At just over 2 hours, it wasn’t too long for children. The 7.30 start is quite late for my 7 year old and he did start to slide down his seat a little during the last 15 minutes or so. We were given press tickets to a weekday evening performance for the purposes of this review, but if this wasn’t the case I would probably aim to take the children to a matinee or at least a weekend performance.
AND NOW OVER TO YOU
Whilst it may not look much, I’m not a fast writer so it takes me quite a while to put together these reviews! I would very much like to hear if you have any suggestions for additional information which you might find helpful or anything you think I should omit. Please leave your thoughts below. I thank you in advance for any comments.
You can find general tips about taking children to the Bristol Hippodrome and a review of Starlight Express here
For details of forthcoming shows and other local events, please check out the Calendar
To read any of my show reviews, please click the titles below
Tuesday 25th – Saturday 29th June
Performances:Tue – 7.30 pm Wed/Thu – 2.30 pm/7.30 pm Fri – 5.00 pm/8.00 pm Sat – 2.00 pm/5.00 pm/8.00 pm
Tickets: £10.00 – £29.50. Concessions available at certain performances
The Bristol Hippodrome – Tuesday 25th – Saturday 29th June 2013
Lyrics by TIM RICE Music by ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER