Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

at Edinburgh Playhouse

* * * - -

Draw back the curtain at the Playhouse for a rather drab technicolor Dreamcoat.

Image of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Photo: Mark Yeoman

This is the quintessential ‘going through the motions’ production. We all know the story of Joseph and his aforementioned coat of a multitude of differing colours. It’s ludicrous, has remarkably catchy tunes and is perhaps the Primary School teacher’s worst nightmare outside of parents’ evening. Bill Kenwright’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat has very much remained untouched from when Kenwright first created his touring vision.

Sold into slavery by his envious brothers, Joseph finds himself transported to Egypt where his ability to interpret dreams saves his life and delivers him into the Pharoah’s favour. There’s also something about a coat of many colours. Which most people in the production seem to forget exists until the closing number.

In theatreland, the combination of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice usually means one thing: money… sorry, catchy numbers. Which really cannot be faulted. Mentioning Any Dream Will Do alone inspires a tirade of attempts at memorising the colours adorning the coat. The set design is impressive, though clearly costume is left the shoestring end.

McElderry’s biggest issue as Joseph is that, whilst he hits those crowd-pleasing notes, he can’t convey emotion particularly well. Joseph isn’t the most in-depth of characters, but songs such as Close Every Door just fail to lift off the floor. What should be a remarkably bleak and morose number, combined with Tim Rice’s meaningful lyrics, is just lost on McElderry. Oh, but our Narrator, our literal carrier of the narrative, also carries the show and keeps it from sinking too low into pantomime territory. Lucy Kay (despite her uncommonly tame costume) glitters on the stage admit the innocuous gowns and coats.

To describe this evening’s production as camp would be borderline insulting and outdated. This show, however, is very outdated, so camp works just fine. All of our favourite moments are present. Pharoah strutting as the King of Rock himself. Enough stereotypes to start a rally over and three inflatable sheep which slowly, painfully fill over the opening ten minutes.

The difficult thing in reviewing Joseph is that it is precisely what it wants to be. Regardless of a weak plot and aversion to remaining fresh, it’s innocent and has some of musical theatre’s most infamous tunes. At its heart, it is really rather enjoyable. Though if Joseph ever wears Ugg boots again, he’s being sold straight back to Egypt.