Theatre Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Tour

50 years young and still going strong, the vibrant technicolor story of Joseph, his brothers and that infamous coat has a new star and a new telling on tour this spring.

Half a century since the original Joseph concept album was released, although the show didn't see a full staging until 1973, Union J's Jaymi Hensley shows there's plenty of life, and even an alternative interpretation, left in the tale.

Bill Kenwright's production toys with some of the much-loved elements of the show, adding more comic touches from inflatable sheep to a golden motorbike-chariot, which the young cast embraced with gusto.  Their irrepressible joy, particularly from the coterie of well-choreographed brothers, is palpable and pulls the audience in from the outset.

Sean Cavanagh's sets make the most of a smaller stage without making it feel crowded or overwhelming the actors.  We particularly loved the gold Anubis heads winging in from either side and the beautifully painted cloth which covered the stage during the Overture.

Hensley delights in the role and brings a new interpretation to some of the songs and scenes.  Despite being resplendent in expensive Uggs in contrast to his brothers' uniform white Hi-Tops, he starts the show meek and mild, gradually acquiring swagger and confidence as Joseph's stature rises.

A veteran of the X Factor and a manufactured band, I can't have been the only one in the audience who wondered if he could really sing.  From the opening bars of Close Every Door, the answer is a glaring yes, he can.  His voice is strong and has sufficient range for even the trickier changes in tone that the role demands.

Adding a bitter note to the first half, including Close Every Door, which I hadn't seen before, Hensley proves his worth way beyond manufactured pop, and shows real charisma in the role.  (Something some of the more famous Josephs have failed to accomplish in recent years.)

Trina Hill's narrator is sometimes overshadowed by the off-stage orchestra, which is unfortunate, but may have been a simple mixing desk problem.  No such problem for Andrew Geater's Pharaoh who was a huge hit with the audience, and rightly so.

If you take nothing else from this glorious meeting of Rice and Lloyd Webber, it's jolly good fun and a decent way to spend a couple of hours.  Even the grumbling elderly gentleman sat behind us went out with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.

An excellent production of one of the nation's best-loved musicals, you have to see it!

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is at The Hawth, Crawley until Saturday.  The tour then continues until July, as follows:

19-23 March        Edinburgh Playhouse
26-30 March        Rhyl Pavilion
2-6 April              Newcastle Theatre Royal
9-13 April            Milton Keynes
16-20 April          Chester Storyhouse
14-18 May           Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre
21-25 May           Darlington Hippodrome
28 May-1 June     Blackpool Winter Gardens
4-15 June            Leeds Grand Theatre
18-22 June          Derby Theatre
25-29 June          Ipswich Regent
2-13 July             Birmingham Hippodrome
16-20 July           Oxford New Theatre

To find out more and book tickets, click here.

Other family-friendly shows coming up at The Hawth this spring include Room on the Broom, We're Going on a Bear Hunt and Shrek the Musical.  Visit their website to book.

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Photos by Pamela Raith for Bill Kenwright Ltd

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