Photo: Mark Yeoman
Incredibly, this is the fifth time I’ve reviewed Bill Kenwright’s perennial touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat since 2011 – three of which have taken place at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre, as is the case this week. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s all-sung musical adaptation of the Biblical story maybe over forty years old but, thanks to some of musical theatre’s catchiest melodies, slickest tongue-in-cheek lyrics and arguably the most eclectic compilation of styles ever presented in a single evening, the feel-good show never fails to impress.
The musical, which started life as a fifteen-minute school production, could still probably be performed in no more than an hour. However, those clever theatre people trade on its crowd-pleasing and toe-tapping qualities and through multiple reprisals (I heard Any Dream Will Do four times!) including a twenty-minute finale/encore where the whole show is virtually re-run in a high-energy mega-mix. And the crowd, who leap to their feet every time, simply love it.
Of course, with such a proven vehicle, marketing becomes all about casting and, with that in mind, over the past ten years we’ve seen a myriad of celebrities and reality TV performers taking to the ‘Joseph’ stage. While some have shone, such as Danielle Hope as the Narrator in 2014, others haven’t quite managed to hit the mark (I’ll mention no names – or letters of the alphabet). The starting point though, surely, has to be the ability to sing… Step forward Joe McElderry, the man who beat Olly Murs in 2009 to be crowned X Factor winner (that’s way back to a time when the TV show enjoyed higher viewing figures).
McElderry, whose ongoing success makes him one of the most successful winners to come out of the reality genre, has certainly proved a big box office draw and going by his performance last night it’s not difficult to understand why. In arguably the best vocal display I’ve ever seen in the coveted role, the twenty-four-year-old award-winning and multiple-reality-winning (Popstar to Operastar – 2011, The Jump – 2014) performer adds a renewed freshness to the never-ending tour.
In something of a reality double-act, soprano Lucy Kay – runner-up in last year’s Britain’s Got Talent – makes the role of Narrator look easy. And don’t let the BGT tag fool you; here is a fully trained and gifted performer of the highest calibre as opposed to someone who has been singing into a hairbrush in front of a mirror. This young lady is currently taking the classical music world by storm so let’s hope musical theatre can further benefit from her input. Together McElderry and Kay provide a real slice of quality which sits at the core of this current production’s success.
Elsewhere Emilianos Stamatakis fills The King’s shoes rather well in the role of Pharaoh and, show veteran Henry Metcalfe – who also choreographs the production – all-but owns the roles of Jacob and Potiphar by now. Under Bill Kenwright’s own direction, Joseph’s eleven-strong band of brothers, the trio of handmaidens and I must say exceptionally sounding children’s choir (Carmel Thomas Performing Arts) provide a strong bedrock of support that make this musical tour pretty much unstoppable.
Joseph plays at Churchill Theatre Bromley until Saturday. 5 March before continuing on its tour. More at <a href="http://www.josephthemusical.com/uktour/" target="_blank">www.josephthemusical.com/uktour</a>