Musical Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Rating: 4

By Richard Barber

The story of this musical is infinitely more complicated than the almost cartoon-like tale told within it. In 1967, young composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice are offered 100 guineas by music teacher Alan Doggett to write a 15-minute pop cantata for the choir of Colet Court School in south-west London.

On 1 March 1968, the students perform a 22-minute version of Joseph on a drizzly Friday afternoon to be met by a standing ovation and the offer of a deal by music publishers Novello and Co.

Two months later, it is performed again, this time at Westminster City Hall where, among the audience, is Sunday Times music critic Derek Jewell. He subsequently writes: ‘Joseph bristles with wonderfully singable tunes. It entertains. It communicates instantly as all good pop should. And it is a considerable piece of barrier-breaking by its creators.’ The boys are on their way.

More than half a century and many hit productions later, Joseph has now come to rest at the London Palladium where it will enjoy a season until the beginning of September. And ‘enjoy’ is certainly the word. For audiences punch-drunk on the seemingly insoluble conundrum that is Brexit, here are two hours of uncomplicated, unbridled exuberance and escapism.

Director Laurence Connor has kept things simple but drenched this hugely likeable show in a kaleidoscope of dazzling colours, and assembled a youthful cast choreographed by JoAnn M Hunter to within an inch of their lives.

Chief among them is Sheridan Smith in the considerably enlarged role of the Narrator. She’s barely off the stage, a warm-hearted presence whose obvious relish for what she’s doing continually communicated across the footlights.

Jason Donovan, who famously played the title role in earlier productions, has been given a plum part as a somewhat superannuated Pharaoh, whose big number is a pastiche of Elvis Presley in the Las Vegas years. My only quibble was that the orchestration sometimes ended up drowning out Tim Rice’s nifty lyrics.

In many ways, the revelation of the evening is young Jac Yarrow, a 21-year-old who is yet to graduate from Arts Educational School but who already has all the makings of a major star. And boy, can he sing! His rendition of Close Every Door is guaranteed to reunite you with your goosebumps. As I say: enjoy!

- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is at the London Palladium until 8 September: 020-7087 7757,