Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Joseph - The Palace Theatre, Manchester

Joseph & his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Music: Andrew Lloyd-Webber
Lyrics: Tim Rice
Director: Bill Kenwright
Reviewer: John Roberts

Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has been a family favourite for many years, thrusting many male celebrities into the colourful coat and loin cloth, including Jason Donavan, Philip Schofield, Darren Day, Donny Osmond and the late Stephen Gately but for the last two years producer Bill Kenwright has used Craig Chalmers one of the finalists from BBC’s search for the West End Joseph (which was won by Lee Meade.) This formula has worked a treat for producer/director Kenwright in past shows but unfortunately this current lead falls remarkably short and flat compared to the high quality of the rest of the production.

The first thing that strikes you with this production is the set designed by Sean Cavanagh, which is vibrant and has a feel of an illustrated book, and the brilliantly colourful costumes, some of which wouldn’t look out of place in a carnival really stood out. The show also excels in some of the best stage lighting seen in a touring production for a long time designed by Mark Howett it really helps to add to the atmosphere of the production, one especially liked the LED lights on the staircase and the down lights used as prison bars in Go Go Go Joseph.

Director Bill Kenwright has littered the show with many light and comic moments, from the Inflatable sheep, to moments of comic voice over’s and parodies of Elvis and American High School Jocks and Cheerleaders, these element keep the show feeling fresh and never lacks in pace...that is until the very end of the production when we are greeted with the Mega Mix, one can understand having a few verses as a reprise during the curtain call but the gratuitous and indulgent megamiz goes beyond the pale, after all why do we need fifteen minutes of songs we have only just listened to sung to us again with a dreadfully loud 90’s club mix backing track?

Uniformly the cast are excellent throughout, Tara Bethan gave a stunning performance as the Narrator, again another contestant from a BBC talent show this time the search for Nancy, her vocals were warm and seductive and her innocent like charm shone in her eyes as she led the audience through the story of Joseph. Stephen Webb as the Pharaoh could shake his hips like no other, seductively weaving his Elvis like charms to all the women in the audience, relishing his time on the stage. Richard J Hunt is also worthy of high praise as the Baker/Judah being highly animated throughout and displaying excellent comic timing he really has excellent stage presence and a real scene stealer.

But this Is Joseph...and you really do need an actor that has charm and charisma to hold the cast together but Craig Chalmers is more wooden and less enigmatic than a mannequin in Marks & Spencer’s and he really does pull the energy and overall impact of the show right down especially with his weak and overly nasal vocals...Mr Kenwright it is time for a change, let the loin cloth and coat grace someone new and bring a new life to what otherwise is a highly enjoyable evening.

Runs until Sat 24th Oct
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