Words: Simon Button
Sheridan Smith’s relentless mugging marred the 2019 revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for me. Playing the Narrator, she stole a show that wasn’t hers to steal - giving a star turn that made the musical more about her and less about Jac Yarrow’s Joseph as the producers, cashing in or her star status, gave her much more to do than the script called for.
The 2021 revival has the same MO, keeping the Narrator as the starring role - and the one who gets the last bow - but with Alexandra Burke taking over from Smith it feels less like focus-pulling and more like a clever way to engage the audience.
Alexandra Burke in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The London Palladium (Photography: Tristram Kenton)
Alexandra’s a better dancer than Sheridan and a much better singer, and on opening night she was clearly having as much fun as the audience - who, packed into a sold-out London Palladium, threatened to blow the roof off the place with thunderous applause that was as much about being back in a full-capacity theatre as it was about the sheer Technicolor brilliance of the staging.
Jason Donovan (now too old to play the lead, though he’s still in fantastic shape) is back as Pharaoh and has learned to enunciate his lines since last time, when his Presley impersonation was all sexy hip wiggles and muddled lyrics.
Jason Donovan and Jac Yarrow in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The London Palladium (Photography: Tristram Kenton)
And Jac Yarrow returns as the most endearing of all Josephs. His exuberance matches the eye-poppingly bright staging, he looks great without his shirt and his rendition of Close Every Door is so heartfelt it’s heartbreaking.
Not that this Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical is one that often pulls at the heartstrings. It’s more about parody and pastiche (with tunes that mimic country-and-western ballads and French chansons) and giving the audience a rollicking good time.
Jac Yarrow in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The London Palladium (Photography: Tristram Kenton)
Director Laurence Conor doesn’t take the show seriously, playing up the camp and - with the invaluable help of choreographer Joann M. Hunter, set and costume designer Morgan Large and lighting designer Ben Cracknell - filling the vast stage with animatronic camels, golden pyramids, some huge dance numbers and more colour than Joseph’s dreamcoat.
Bolstered by Lloyd Webber’s earworm-filled score and Rice’s genius lyrics, it feels as much like a party as a musical, climaxing in a megamix that has the whole crowd up and dancing. Theatre, as they say on Twitter, is back and it’s never been more fun.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is at the London Palladium. For great deals on tickets and shows click here.