All good things must come to an end and, after nearly four months, this weekend saw the final instalment in the first series of The Shows Must Go On. There was only one way to end this series - return to the beginning (ah ah) for an encore screening of the very first title in the series, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Bit of a mouthful, isn't it?
As surely everybody knows, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was first created in the 1960s, back when The Phantom Of The Opera was just a twinkle in Andrew Lloyd Webbers eye. It was first staged in the West end in 1973 and has been revived consistently in every decade since, featuring Jason Donovan, Philip Schofield, Stephen Gately, Joe McElderry, Lee Mead and Jac Yarrow donning the iconic coat of many colors.=
This version was specially filmed in 1999 featuring Donny Osmond as the famous coat lover. In his 40s at the time, Osmond pushes the believability factor as how youthful Joseph should be but this is musical theatre so you can suspend disbelief for a minute. Osmond is joined in the cast by Maria Friedman who lends her dulcet tones to the role of the Narrator. The cast also includes the late Richard Attenborough as a non-singing Jacob and a blink and you'll miss it cameo from Joan Collins as Mrs Potiphar. Even Biggins gets in on the action with a small role.
Joseph has always been one of my favourite Andrew Lloyd Webber shows - it has sentimental value as this was the first show I ever saw, and last years revival at the Palladium was one of my theatre highlights of 2019. Unbelievably I had never seen this version. It's hard to compare it to last years production as you'll know if you saw it, that was a completely different Joseph - Sheridan Smith playing all the roles wasn't to everybody's taste but I couldn't help but love her.
The best way to describe this version is weird. Rather than film a live performance, this version was filmed specifically for a straight to video (ask your grandparents) release. This version takes the unconventional step on framing the narrative with the cast members as teachers in a school putting on the play for the children who later join in . While a nice throwback to the origins of this show, it can be pretty jarring and takes you out of the show. When you eventually get over the weird framing, the show is as joyful and fun as you'd expect.
The jewel in Joseph's crown is its songs. Where some Andrew Lloyd Webber shows suffer from a lack of memorable songs, there is no shortage of them here. From 'Jacob and Sons', to 'Go, go go Joseph' to 'Those Canaan days', you'll be humming along in no time. That's not even mentioning the two biggest songs from the show - the stunning 'Close Every Door' done admirably by Donny Osmond even if it did lack the spine tingling moments Jac Yarrow provides, and everybody's favourite singalong 'Any Dream Will Do'. The unusual style of songs is one of the things that sets Joseph apart - who knows why the Pharaoh does his number in the style of Elvis, but stranger things have happened in theatre!
If you're looking for a plot, remember this is an Andrew Lloyd Webber show. Just be thankful there aren't any singing cats anywhere. This one does have some semblance of a story, but that goes out of the window fairly quickly with a sudden end. One of the only issues I have with this show is how ridiculously short it is. At one hour 20 minutes it is one of the shortest musicals you can see, bearing in mind this is a two act show, not one act. In the theatre the show adds an extra few minutes with a giant megamix of practically all of the songs. Sadly that isn't present here. If you're looking for a quick musical fix to make you smile, this is the show for you. If you want something longer and depressing, the Les Miserables movie starring Russell Crowe as Javert ought to do the trick on many levels.
Ok, this show may not have the intelligence or emotion of some of its counterparts but who honestly cares? Sometimes you just want a show that puts a smile on your face and makes you forget about the apocalypse outside. In that respect, Joseph ticks all of the boxes. While this may not be the greatest version of this show, it is still a decent enough version which encapsulates the very best in theatre.
Maybe I'm just a big kid at heart or maybe it is how depressing things have been this year but this show never fails to put a smile on my face, even if the casting can be questionable at times. This was a great way to end the first series of a sometimes amazing, often inconsistent first series of 'The Shows Must Go On'.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is available to view on youtube.com/theshowsmustgoon until Sunday 12th July at 7pm. Direct link below:
That's it for the first series of The Shows Must Go On, but fear not - it will return in mid-August with some brand new titles. Look out here tomorrow for a review of the entire first series.