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JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR® DREAMCOAT (article first published : 2003-12-11)

“Go, go, go Joseph! You’re doing fine!” are the words in one of the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor® Dreamcoat. And that just about sums up Very Very Big Productions’ presentation of the show that opened tonight at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Ltd and in association with P4 Radio 99.5FM.

Joseph had its origins in the UK in 1967 when the head of music of Colet Court, St Paul’s Junior School, asked the brother of Julian Lloyd Webber, one of its pupils, to write a pop cantata for the school choir to sing at an end-of-term concert. That brother was, of course, the now celebrated Andrew Lloyd Webber. The composer approached his friend, the equally honoured Tim Rice, to write the lyrics and the first performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was held in Hammersmith on March 1, 1968. This original 20 minute work was such a hit that two more performances took place. These attracted the interest of people in the right places, particularly those with money who could fund the expansion of the work, and the rest – as they say – is history!

Some 35 years on, Joseph is still one of the most popular musicals loved by all ages. With a cast of over 50, it is set in ancient Egypt and tells the biblical story of Jacob and his 12 sons with much humour and some utterly delightful music.

Director and designer Greg King has been able to let his highly creative sense of fun run riot in this enjoyable and entertaining presentation. It’s a visual, musical and dramatic feast from start to finish. What Greg probably didn’t bargain on was having to step in to play a part. Garth Anderson, one of the lead actors, had to undergo emergency surgery and wasn’t able to perform tonight. So Greg competently stepped into the role of Jacob while Garth’s other part (Potiphar) was taken by Mark Hawkins, all much to the delight of the first night audience! Garth is apparently doing fine and is expected to be back on stage at the end of the week.

Newcomer Derrick Anderson is a disarming and sincere Joseph, ably matched by the spirited and highly professional Karen Van Pletsen as the Narrator. Normally playing one of the brothers, Ebrahim Medell had some scene stealing moments as Potiphar’s wife. Shanthan gave flamboyance to his role as Pharaoh but I do believe that he has more power to give. The brothers are absolutely adorable and provide much of the hilarity, especially when they try to explain Joseph’s disappearance to their father! I was particularly impressed with Pascar Dube (Simeon) and Russel Braum (Benjamin).

Pompoms, red stetsons, illuminated star shapes, Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company members operating movable palm trees, scooters masquerading as gold chariots – it all makes for great theatrical fun. And I loved Pharoah’s security guards! Special mention must be made of the Maris Stella School Choir who performed impeccably and with much vigour.

David Gouldie has matched Greg King’s humorous direction with some delicious choreography, Michael Broderick’s lighting design is excellent and musical director Evan Roberts keeps the large cast and tight-knit five piece band well under control. I would have preferred that the band had been situated somewhere other than in the pit because not only would it release valuable stage space but it would stop the audience worrying that someone might fall in! My only other gripe is that I have a problem with singers who breathe in the middle of phrases!

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor® Dreamcoat runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from December 8 to 31. Tickets from R55. Book at Computicket.

There will be a special New Year’s Eve performance on December 31 at 21h30. Tickets for this performance are R200 which include pre-performance snacks, show, champagne, balloons, streamers and an after-party with the cast. More information on 031 209 0142. – Caroline Smart.




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