Thanks to Wales Millennium Centre for providing us with tickets for the purpose of this review.
Two years ago, pretty much to the week, I took my eldest two children who were then aged 7 and 5 to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Wales Millennium Centre (you can read our review here). They loved it so much that as we left the Donald Gordon Theatre we went straight to the merchandise stand and bought the soundtrack. We played and sang the songs from the show all the way home – and the music has been on constantly ever since.
Their enthusiasm rubbed off on their little brother, who was just three at the time they saw it, and he soon knew all the songs off by heart too. I promised him that next time the musical came to Cardiff, it would be his turn to see it. And last night, now aged 5, he got his chance as Bill Kenwright’s 2019 touring production arrived at Wales Millennium Centre for a week-long run of nine performances, including three on Saturday.
I’m pleased to report it was worth the wait for him as he loved it. His little eyes and face lit up throughout and he was so excited to finally see the songs he knew so well being performed live on stage.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a great show for families, not least because it was created with children in mind. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice originally wrote Joseph as a 15-minute show for a London school in 1968. It eventually became a full-scale musical premiering in the West End in 1973 and Broadway in 1982, but it’s also widely-performed by school and youth theatre groups (indeed, I was part of an amateur production in my early teens) and as a result is incredibly well known.
The musical is based on the story from the Biblical book of Genesis, and follows Joseph as his 11 brothers tire of him being their father’s favourite and sell him as a slave. His ability to decipher the meanings of dreams eventually sees him become the Egyptian Pharaoh’s second in command when he predicts a forthcoming famine and saves the nation. His starving brothers come to him to beg for food but as they don’t recognise him under his mask, he plays a trick on them to see if they have changed their wicked ways.
This production is very similar to the one we saw in 2017, with plenty of humour, a simple set enhanced by brilliantly evocative lighting and non-stop singing from start to finish. It’s a great show for families, with fun and lively musical numbers, an easy-to-follow storyline and nothing scary. And, at just over two hours including interval, it’s not too long for little ones to sit through either.
Jaymi Hensley (above), from boyband Union J, is the latest celeb to take on the iconic role of Joseph. He follows the likes of Donny Osmond, Joe McElderry, Lee Mead, and Phillip Schofield who have all worn the iconic loin cloth on stage, and of course Jason Donovan, who for women of my generation, will always be associated with the role. Sadly I never got to see Jason in the show itself but I loved his TV appearances performing iconic songs from the musical and played the cassette soundtrack constantly. Incidentally, Jason is about to return to Joseph in the West End but this time as Pharaoh.
I don’t know a single Union J song and never even saw them on the X Factor so had no idea what to expect from Jaymi – but he more than deserves the role. He adds a lovely depth of emotion to the character, in particular the scenes at the end of the show when he is reunited with his father Jacob (Henry Metcalfe). His rendition of the upbeat Any Dream Will Do is surprisingly moving.
The charismatic Andrew Geater takes on the role of Pharaoh, continuing the tradition of the role being played in the style of Elvis Presley. I’m not sure how many of the young children in the audience will understand this reference – although it’s a great way to introduce the music of the King to them – but he has the hip thrusting and uh-huhs down to a tee. One of his musical numbers, the lively Song of the King, is particularly well-received, with the stage filled with Egyptian-style American football players and cheerleaders as backing dancers. Not an especially accurate portrayal of Ancient Egypt, but – along with the French ballad-inspired Those Canaan Days sung by the brothers against a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, the Country and Western One More Angel in Heaven and Benjamin Calypso – a fun way to introduce different styles of music to younger audience members.
Trina Hill is the narrator, the ever-present storyteller who holds the show together. She has such a beautiful voice with an incredible vocal range and makes the high notes seem effortless. She’s also very, very likeable and has some lovely interactions with the children’s choir – because it wouldn’t be Joseph without a big group of young singers on the stage. This group of 25 sit on the steps at either side of the stage throughout, helping with the narration and accompanying some of the bigger numbers.
Recognising just how well-loved the songs from Joseph are, the show finishes with a wonderful medley which has the entire audience up and singing along.
We left the theatre on a real high… and of course put the soundtrack on in the car on the way home, with my five year old commenting, “Mummy, that was brilliant. Can we see it next time it’s in Cardiff?”
Absolutely we can, my dear. Absolutely!
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is at Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday. Tickets are still available, costing from £16-£38. Book online here.