SHOW: JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
CAST: EARL GREGORY, BIANCA LE GRANGE, JONATHAN ROXMOUTH, DEAN ROBERTS AND ENSEMBLE.
DIRECTOR: PAUL WARWICK GRIFFIN
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: LOUIS ZURNAMER
MUSICAL SUPERVISION: CHARL-JOHAN LINGENFELDER
CHOREOGRAPHER: DUANE ALEXANDER
COSTUME DESIGN: NIALL GRIFFIN
LIGHTING DESIGN: GARETH HEWITT WILLIAMS
VENUE: PIETER TOERIEN’S MONTECASINO THEATRE, FOURWAYS, UNTIL AUGUST 7
REVIEWER: PETER FELDMAN
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve reviewed the various versions of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’.
The first time I was introduced to this memorable musical experience was in the early 1970s, when the stars of that show were Bruce Millar as Joseph, Alvon Collison (recent winner of a Naledi Lifetime Achievement Award) as Pharaoh and Richard Loring (who was in the audience at the media performance) as the Narrator. It was one of my early theatre reviews and I was bowled over by the sheer vibrancy and good cheer this show generates.
Over the decades it helped set a standard that subsequent ‘Joseph’ directors tried to emulate.
The perennial favourite has come around again and this time director Paul Warwick Griffin has taken the simple story and transformed it into a bold, pulsating light-and-sound extravaganza. The story is largely submerged by the heavy overlay of gimmicks and an outrageously camp approach.
I suspect new material may have been added to the repertoire, perhaps to give the marvellous Jonathan Roxmouth more meat as the outlandish, mesmerising Elvis impersonating, gum-chewing Pharoah.
Roxmouth certainly has his moments in the spotlight, but he is hard-put to outshine Earl Gregory as Joseph, his finely sculpted body clad in the skimpiest of costumes to provide the utmost eye-candy to the audience. Where this Joseph truly scores – and this is Gregory’s second incarnation in the role – is with his sublime voice, which is given full vent on a number such as ‘Close Every Door’, where its simplicity effectively comes across.
Griffin embellishes the show with a healthy mix of musical styles that embrace elements of ‘Cabaret’, ‘Oklahoma’, ‘Burn the Floor’ and a few Las Vegas showstoppers. All these elements are delivered with oodles of vim and vigour, with performers clad in sets of striking Niall Griffin-designed costumes. Clever use is also made of wire animals, one scene depicting a bloody slaughtered goat, proof that Jacob’s favourite son had succumbed to a pack of wild animals.
Gimmicks abound: an angel (Venolia Manale), aglow in shimmering white, carefully wheels her way around the stage on a hover board and when Joseph is hauled off by the Egyptians, a plane with Gupta signage makes its appearance – to the delight of the audience.
The sequence with Dean Roberts as the decadent Potiphar and his adoring girls could have been lifted from ‘Cabaret’s’ most deranged moments in its style and attitude. Roberts also plays Jacob, with his face encased in a woolly beard and a perpetual smile on his countenance.
Bianca Le Grange makes a competent enough Narrator, a job normally reserved for men. Her task is to tell the story through word and song, guiding the audience gently through the story of Joseph and his brothers, giving meaning to the story.
There’s a lot on offer in this production and the eye is constantly bedazzled by the visual spectacle unfolding – from Duane Alexander’s frenetic dance routines, to the cast’s unified singing.
All the popular songs are trotted out during the flow of the musical. The vibrant opening number, ‘Jacob and Sons’ – played out on a set of a tropical island, complete with a resident parrot in a tree – sets the tone and from there on it builds steadily. Pharaoh emerging in all his glory from a colourful Sarcophagus and lustily singing ‘Song of the King’ certainly raised the roof.
The live band, under Louis Zurnamer’s direction, was kept mostly in check and sometimes overwhelmed the singers, especially the Narrator.
‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’, written early on in the careers of lyricist Tim Rice and music maestro Andrew Lloyd Webber, was always open to interpretation. However, this 2016 model, with its shimmering extravagance, may not appeal to all theatre-goers, many of whom may greet this experience with mixed feelings.
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