Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
London Palladium, till Sept 5
There’s a phenomenon I’m seeing now in theatreland that I can only really call the lockdown effect. Confine a lot of actors and creatives to their homes for long periods of time – and, for that matter, theatre audiences – and, inevitably, they come back energised and appreciative of what perhaps they’d previously taken for granted.
Theatre really has come back and I’d say better than ever. I’m maybe going to have to recalibrate my five-star ratings as they are starting to lose their currency with so much creative energy around. It shows, too, how real enthusiasm can overcome just about everything.
There’s no better example of this than Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. In the carefree summer of 2019, when I first reviewed this production, I wasn’t, to put it mildly, very complimentary. I’d loved the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical as a youngster, but, two years ago, it had seemed tired and listless and I thought maybe it had just had its day.
Laurence Connor’s production has now come back, absolutely bursting with fun and life and humour, and I realised I was unwise to have written the show off last time around or maybe hadn’t understood how it could yet be turbocharged. It’s as if everyone involved has made a conscious decision to give it everything they’ve got.
Jac Yarrow has metamorphosed into a uniquely charismatic Joseph, Jason Donovan – apparently on autopilot the last time – has a ball as Pharaoh and Alexandra Burke, the Narrator, keeps things moving along at a brisk pace. It’s the youngsters, however, cast in a number of key roles – not least the kids who take it in turns to play Potiphar – who give it its charm.
Some of the songs have a poignant new resonance – “Those Canaan days we used to know, where have they gone, where did they go?” – but the show ends, of course, on a high, and seldom, if ever, have I attended a first night where there’s been such a determination – both on the stage and in the stalls – to have a ball.