Programme cover
Bill Kenwright
by special arrangement with the Really Useful Group

JOSEPH and the Amazing

U.K. tour 2004

(a selection from the first six weeks)

West Sussex Gazette 26th February 2004

Timeless musical is still a crowd-pleaser

A production that has been on the road virtually non-stop for nigh on 25 years must be doing something right. Bill Kenwright's version of the Rice/Lloyd-Webber hit Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has packed them in on tour since 1979 and is going strong once again in London's West End, so even if the material occasionally looks a little ragged, the show is still a worthy crowd-pleaser. Let's face it - there can't be much wrong with a show that draws its story from the Bible, has a contemporary moral, contains a stewpot of musical styles, and can attract an audience of all ages.

At Worthing we were long promised Andrew Derbyshire, who scored great success in the Queen musical We Will Rock You, in the lead role, but he was pulled into the London production at the end of last year. So there was a tinge of disappointment, even with the reappearance of the apparently ageless Richard Swerrun as Joseph. Richard has played Joseph more times over the past ten or so years than the Israelites had hot manna and his lively familiarity with the role was reassuring. He gets two of the show's most well-known numbers, Close Every Door and the timeless Any Dream Will Do, and managed to inject the drama behind the songs into his performance.

In a show where there are several 'star spots' it is to this production's credit that everything and everyone gelled to give a real sense of a company working together and enjoying every second.

Amanda Claire was a charming, if a little smug, narrator, sounding better when she could belt out her lines; Lee Mead was an understandable favourite as a rock and roll Pharaoh who almost managed to out-Presley Elvis in the Song of the King; and the brothers were particularly harmonious in their country and western style One More Angel In Heaven, the continental sound of Those Canaan Days, and the Caribbean colour of the Benjamin Calypso.

This production of Joseph has always seemed a bit of a poor relation to the fabulous revival that took the London Palladium stage by storm 20 years ago, and it still looks very basic. But, judging by the energetic performances. at Worthing the Dreamcoat is a long way from fading.

David Guest
Worthing Herald Thursday, February 19th 2004

Technicolor dreamin'

'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is simply wonderful theatre, and it was just as amazing at Worthing's Pavilion..'

IT'S been doing the rounds now for more than 20 years, and it's my guess that it will still be going strong in 200 years' time. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is simply wonderful theatre, and it was just as amazing at Worthing's Pavilion Theatre this week.

On Monday, the opening night, a completely packed house thought so, too - the audience simply could not stop applauding.

OK, I'm biased; I just love this musical. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's non-stop numbers just get completely into your head and they're still doing the rounds in my memory as I write this - just like the middle-aged woman who was following me out of the theatre singing away!

I thought the original was fantastic, but this production by Bill Kenwright is so vital and alive, slick and colourful, it makes the audience want to get on stage and join in! Richard Swerrun, as Joseph, is brilliant - his singing carries the show - and Lee Mead's interpretation of Pharaoh taking off the King, Elvis, had everyone applauding wildly. The costumes are terrific and the cast's costume changes are like lightning. Narrator Amanda Claire has a wonderful singing voice, with a vast range of tone, and kept the story line running admirably.

I can do no more than to quote the words of a critic and agree with all of them: "I could watch this show a hundred times and then come back for more. It sweeps away all of the dreary sham that nowadays passes for theatre. It has everything: wonderful music and lyrics, splendid direction and choreography, characters and clowns and one of the best story lines ever written. But, above all it has honesty. It has a dedicated team who want to entertain, who dance like dervishes and sing their hearts out. You get a feeling that they love it. You have a sort of hunch they love you, too. You know that they are going to give the theatre an evening that will be remembered."

Finally, well done the choir from Nicola Miles Theatre Studios and the pupils of choir mistress Jan Swabey. Brilliant!

Tony Mayes
Derby Evening Telegraph Tuesday, February 10th 2004

Never mind the lyrics, feel the applause

Dreamcoat wears well in a high-energy show

AMAZING - Derby must have been the only place left in the UK that hadn't seen Bill Kenworthy's 25-year-old, record-breaking professional touring production of Joseph. So, well done, again, to the Assembly Rooms: after Forbidden Planet and Rocky Horror (which we also thought we'd never see in Derby), they've got even more of a winner here.

Why is it such a sure-fire winner? Given that Andrew Lloyd-Webber knocked this musical together around the age of 19, I was fascinated as a first-timer by this show's perennial appeal to all ages, and the fact that audiences return time and time again to see it.

Even critics of high theatre adore this show, even if it's just for its sheer energy and sparkle. Well, it's got that all right, though for this critic it's no amazing technicolor dream show - merely a light, breezily entertaining piece of theatrical middle-of-the-road pop, soundly sung, tightly choreographed and nicely lit.

And at first that seemed to be the audience impression, given the polite applause in Act One.

By then, two songs had made their mark: One More Angel In Heaven, a clever country and western pastiche, and Close Every Door, a touching ballad sung with poise and feeling by Richard Swerrun, a Joseph of great conviction.

I was impressed, too, by narrator Amanda Claire's voice of clarity and assurance, yet she and the cast have to cope with the clumsy scansion of Tim Rice's over-rated lyrics, plus some of his dire rhymes, reaching a nadir when Joseph's brothers, jealous of his dreamcoat, sing "and now his coat has got our goat".

But sometimes a critic has to hold up his hands and bow to those around him, because shortly into the second second half, when Lee Mead as the Pharaoh performed as Elvis in Song Of The King, the audience became notably animated. Gospel, jazz and calypso added to the pleasingly varied if still (for me) mediocre song styles and, by the end, with Joseph reunited with his brothers in this morally sound, if slight, tale, the applause was long and loud ... and this critic felt redundant.

Audiences love it - and that's what matters.

Ashley Franklin
Woking News and Mail Thursday, February 5th 2004

Joseph with a touch of calypso and glitzy rocking

Go go go Joseph may sound much like a cheerleader's chant but I was somewhat surprised by their appearance, complete with pom-poms, in Joseph at Woking's New Victoria Theatre on Tuesday. In fact I was left a bit baffled by the whole production, not knowing whether to laugh, or frown. There is no denying the catchy show tunes and I found myself singing along to songs I didn't know I knew and unintentionally adding the echoing parts to Any Dream Will Do.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is based around a bible story of Jacob and his sons and is set in Egypt. yet somehow the production manages to slip in a variety of random themes including a touch of the calypso, gay Paris, American footballers and even hillbilly rockers. Once you have accustomed yourself to expect the unexpected, you can appreciate that these inserts are good comedy value and undeniable audience pleasers.

The unexpected continues with the appearance of a posh butler and a 'Brummie' baker thrown in and even the Pharaoh was far from the ordinary. Clad in a glitzy white all-in-one number with flared bottoms and sporting sideburns and a slick quiff, Lee Mead was the rockin' and rolling Pharaoh / Elvis. He was a big hit with the audience and great comic value with a fantastic Elvis-like tone.

Unfortunately at times the relatively basic props, including a cardboard cut-out of a camel, gave the impression of a beefed-up school play rather than a big West End production. But then there were moments where the calibre of an inspiring musical shone through.

Richard Swerrun was bursting with emotion as Joseph, which was best captured in the moments when he was solo on stage. At other times the more serious parts of the plot are lost among the mixture of themed songs and deliberate laugh-inducing moments. The first moment I felt that stirring feeling that is often produced by an Andrew Lloyd Webber song was towards the end of the first act. Joseph is enchained in prison and the backdrop is darkened. With the spotlight on Joseph, Richard's rendition of Close Every Door was greatly applauded.

Amanda Claire did a good job as the narrator and through her various songs she was strong and expressive. Credit has to be given to the choir of youngsters from the Babette Langford Young Set choir. They sit on the tiered steps for the entire performance and did an excellent job with sweet vocals.

At the start, Joseph's Technicolor dream coat is basic, but the new and improved coat which appears at the end is far superior and a colourful finale. Joseph is like the Blue Peter of musicals - clean-cut and amusing. Children will love it and adults will be amused by it. The production is at the New Victoria until Saturday.

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Monday 14th March 2005