Big Stamp was delighted to be invited to review the opening night of Southey Musical Theatre Company’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Montgomery Theatre on Surrey Street in Sheffield.
Joseph is a well-loved show familiar to many people. For many years it was mainly performed in schools and was not available for adult amateur groups. This year is the 50th anniversary of the show and Southey has taken advantage of the rare opportunity to perform it.
The story is ‘all there in Chapter 39 of Genesis’ as lyricist Tim Rice explains. Joseph’s father, Jacob, makes no secret of the fact that Joseph is his favourite and gives him the famous coat of many colours. Immodest Joseph shows off in front of his brothers and tells them of dreams he’s had which means that he will be elevated above them.
The jealous brothers sell him into slavery, telling Jacob he is dead. By a twist of fate, Joseph ends up helping Pharaoh with a tricky famine situation and becomes an important politician. The rest, as they say, is history.
Playing Joseph is Lee McCusker, whose singing and acting were first class. He worked well with a choir of youngsters in the iconic Any Dream Will Do and gave real emotion to Close Every Door. You could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium.
Jon Warburton had great fun as a Superstar Pharaoh, with chorus ladies salivating at his every thrust. His fabulous performance of Song of the King was hilarious and the audience loved it.
The brothers worked very well as a unit, with great reactions, interplay, harmony singing and slick choreography. Several of them also took lead vocals, notably Marcus Bowen as Issachar who, with Katherine Rice’s lovely harmony, sang One More Angel in Heaven very well and made the most of the comedy opportunities. Also strong were Malcolm Mason as Reuben and Andy Hibbert as Simeon who lead Those Canaan Days. In Benjamin Calypso, Robbie McGann as Judah gave a very infectious lead vocal performance and lit up the stage. Many of the brothers doubled up to play other roles too – a very versatile ‘sordid group’!
Robert Curr as Jacob convincingly portrayed the old man’s love of Joseph and his ignorance of how his favouritism affected his other sons. His reunion with Joseph at the end of the show was very touching.
There aren’t many parts for ladies in Joseph, but holding the show together is the vital role of the Narrator. Heather Reynolds was fully integrated into the action as she guided the audience and helped the story along. Her acting and singing were very entertaining; in a difficult role which is sometimes part of the action and sometimes as an onlooker. She managed the transitions very well, occasionally manipulating the action such as when she offered the golden cup to Joseph to hide in Benjamin’s sack. Sometimes her vocals were drowned out by the band. This was particularly noticeable at the start of the show where she directed her vocals to a child upstage in bed and in Pharaoh Story where much of the song was directed to the choir with her back to most of the audience.
The children’s choir in bright tie-dyed tee shirts were on view all through the show, mainly sitting on raked coloured steps by the side of the stage. Their lovely singing and discipline was very professional. Their hand jiving was good too!
It would have been nice to read more about the cast in the programme, but there were no details about any of them, all the space being given to the production team.
The director, Adam Walker, chose wisely to stick to the tried and tested formula for Joseph. In a well-known show like this one, the audience has certain expectations and messing about with a winning formula would be very risky. The scenery was simple but very effective and there were some witty touches added such as the Narrator taking a selfie with the family after Jacob and Sons.
The musical director Steve Myers, while conducting and playing keyboard, ably kept up the energy this fully sung show needs. The singing was of a very high standard with harmonies coming through nicely. The 7-piece band was superb, playing all those well-known songs wonderfully well.
The choreographer for this show is Amber Parry and her choreography was deft and slick, performed entertainingly, especially by the brothers.
The lighting design is by Tom Daley and Sophie Marples who have rightly established TD Lighting as the go to company for local productions. In this show, highlights were chasing coloured lights framing an open stage, a lovely lighting effect at the end of Close Every Door as the lights closed in on Joseph, and Pharaoh’s mask lit up on the back wall.
The audience for the opening night thoroughly enjoyed the show and were very vocal in their enthusiasm, clapping along and cheering as the songs were reprised in the end of show medley.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat plays at the Montgomery from Thursday 6 December to Sunday 9 December, with evening performances starting at 7.30pm from Thursday to Saturday and matinees at 2.30pm on Saturday and 12 noon and 3.30pm on Sunday. Tickets are £15 and can be booked via the Montgomery website www.themontgomery.org.uk.