When you book to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, you are guaranteed not only a joyful night out at the London Palladium but also a time-travel ticket to your childhood.
Just about everyone has a nostalgic association with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s ultimate family-friendly musical. For Brits, since its full-length premiere in 1974, that could be via a ubiquitous school production, a visit to the local theatre to catch Bill Kenwright’s endless Joseph tour, or more recently, cheering Lee Mead on to reality TV triumph in the BBC’s 2007 Any Dream Will Do series, and perhaps making a special trip to the West End to see him perform his winning title role.
For me, growing up in a military family in the United States in the 1980s, Joseph represents my first-ever trip to New York City and Broadway to see David Cassidy, who I’d idolised on The Partridge Family reruns, don the technicolor robe.
Without doubt, Laurence Connor’s magnificent production, first seen at the London Palladium in 2019 and now back after a year-long Covid postponement, will be the source of similar childhood memories for today’s younger generations.
That’s enhanced by how central Connor has made child actors in this revival as well. They are not just a framing device, a school group being told the Biblical story, or even a wandering chorus. Here, they are fully integrated into the action alongside the adults in the cast, playing four of Joseph’s 11 brothers, the wealthy Potiphar, Pharaoh’s dreamy butler and other cameos.
The children are all extremely talented, and seeing them juxtaposed with adults in these roles, the cute factor is off the scale. They also bring the house down (and not just amongst the section of the audience clearly stuffed with family and friends on the gala night) during the big dance ensemble numbers, when they engage in choreographic competition with their elders.
In Connor’s production, the Narrator also becomes a frequent multi-roler, stepping in as Jacob, Mrs Potiphar and others while also telling the tale. Alexandra Burke, new to the production, is superb as the Narrator, totally deserving of her top billing. From the moment that she bounds onto the stage, in sleek black leggings looking like she may have just come off a matinee of Chicago, she commands the stage (and the children).
Fresh-faced Jac Yarrow, a highly likeable Joseph who nabbed the role back in 2019 straight out of drama school, reprises his performance along with Jason Donovan, who amps the nostalgia factor up further and has a blast as rockabilly Pharaoh. (Donovan, of course, had a breakthrough turn as Joseph when it was first seen at the Palladium in 1991.)
As we emerge from lockdown, this vibrant production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat provides a perfect feelgood antidote to our Covid worries and isolation. The response at the performance I attended was nothing short of euphoric.
On a night of numerous show-stopping moments, the biggest cheers came at the curtain call when Alexandra Burke thanked the audience and proclaimed – “The London Palladium at full capacity – theatre is back!” – before the cast launched into an extended Joseph mega-mix.
We all sang and danced a long. How we love our coat of many colours.
Production photography by Tristram Kenton.