JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber (Mirvish). At the Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King West) until February 18. $39-$185, some same-day rush $59. mirvish.com. Rating: NNNN
It’s estimated that in the last 14 years alone there have been more than 20,000 school and amateur theatre productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s early musical Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This new staging, which premiered in 2019 at London’s Palladium before pausing during COVID-19, really leans into that fact by letting its child actors take over several adult parts. Talk about Dreams coming true.
The result, besides probably lessening the costs of this touring production, gives the show a much more family-friendly vibe than it already had. And it takes the sting out of some of the more serious scenes of attempted fratricide, starvation and prison torture. How can you feel bad when you’re watching adorable kids wearing felt beards?
Not that anyone’s taking this musical – Lloyd Webber and Rice’s first collaboration – very seriously. It’s still a silly story about Biblical patriarch Jacob’s dream-reading offspring, a dude who’s a bit of a smug, coat-twirling asshole to his 11 jealous brothers and so ends up being sold by them into slavery and working his way up the ladder (pyramid?) in Egypt, where he becomes a powerful figure after helping out the Pharaoh with his dream-interpreting skills.
The real joy of the show comes from the obvious glee the composers had in creating this pastiche of musical styles. There’s everything from a C&W number and an Elvis-like rock song to a French-inflected cabaret song. And director Laurence Connor, along with set and costume designer Morgan Large and choreographer Joanna M. Hunter, take these elements and blow them up to ridiculous proportions.
So we get an actual lively country hoedown, a mock-tragic French bar scene and – the production’s big showstopper – a Pharaoh-as-Elvis-in-Vegas number that is so bursting with gold-plated treats and thrusting, scantily-clad, cavorting performers it’s easy to miss things like an ALW Easter egg planted among the hyped-up hieroglyphics.
And criticize Lloyd Webber all you like, but even in his 20s he knew how to compose a memorable tune. I defy you to leave the theatre without humming or whistling standards like Any Dream Will Do, the mournful Close Every Door or the exuberant, pop-inflected Go, Go, Go Joseph. (You’ll get a chance to sing along in the post-show Joseph Megamix, basically an Instagrammable, TikTok-friendly mini concert of hits.)
Thankfully, this production boasts a fine cast, too. Vanessa Fisher, who gamely slips in and out of costumes several times to help move along the plot, makes a resourceful, energetic and strong-voiced narrator. Jac Yarrow, who plays Joseph and was a student a mere three years ago, exudes charm and optimism in both his charismatic onstage presence and his fine voice. And Tosh Wahogho-Maud, although he has some diction issues, nails his scene as the Pharaoh in the above-mentioned showstopper.
(At the performance I saw last night, young actor Jacob Davidov was clear-voiced and focused, likely the most adorable money-counting, vengeful and cuckolded Potiphar you’ll ever see.)
Finally, for a show that has the words “amazing” and “technicolor” in its title, kudos to lighting designer Ben Cracknell. Large’s sets and costumes provide lots of eye candy, but the way Cracknell lights up the show’s backdrop to evoke various settings is pure stage magic.
Go, Go, Go to the box office now.
Editor’s Note: The actor who played Potiphar was incorrectly identified but has been corrected to Jacob Davidov.