Review by George Dixon
Outstandingly Entertaining and Satisfying
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat have always been a family favourite “Feel Good” production. A production that has stood the passing of time.
It was initially written by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice some fifty-five years ago (1967) as a fifteen-minute “pop cantina” for their local church choir. This led to a twenty-two-minute school musical, and the rest, as they say, is history.
This updated version of Joseph is the first international performance direct from London’s West End.
Opening night audience was excited with anticipation. Many attended wearing their most multi-coloured outfits.
The re-energised production includes many makeovers and upgrades while staying true to the classic songs and tunes. These initiatives provide significant variations which keep the audience engaged and entertained.
The inclusion of more children gave the original feel of a school play along with the added vocal dimension while encouraging the younger demographics to attend the show and experience the fun that is Joseph.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is presented through the eyes of children, with the narration coming from their nanny, played by Paulini.
As a musical, it is light, fast-paced, non-stop entertainment suitable for the whole family. The comical elements are natural and pitched at various levels.
Technically. Morgan Large Set and Costume Design renders a “well-framed “set in more ways than one. Simple staging and backdrop consisting of a giant illuminated multi-coloured sun that establishes the tone for the night, day, hot or cold. The simple use of wiring provides support for overhead canopies.
In Pharaoh’s court, you can’t miss the two statues; you will want to keep an eye on them. A Vegas-style “Egypt” sign symbolises the contrast between Egypt as the place that glitters with gold and plenty, compared to Canaan, the famine area.
The Costume designs are simple and effective; Larges’ research into the classic styles, colours, and shapes of materials and clothing that the people were dressed in, brings the appeal of authenticity.
Josephs’ Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat is more than a piece of imagination and art. The styling and colours represent the show and its story, incorporating such symbolism as Star Constellations, bold block colours and shimmering gold.
The functional on-stage mechanical Camels and Pharaoh’s Chariot are the other impressive designs.
The lighting design by Ben Cracknell is very clever. The design enhances the mood of each scene, along with the striking use of silhouettes and shadowing, from the front of the curtain ensemble freeze frame to the prison scene. One of the lighting highlights is found in Pharaoh’s entrance. Without giving any spoilers, you will experience a couple of particular lighting effect extensions that create appreciative applause.
Joanna M. Hunter Choreographer, and Dance Arrangements by Sam Davis have produced a fantastic tight-knitted ensemble. Open stage, grouping and positioning are vital for visual presentation and effects.
The big act one finish, ‘Go, Go, Joseph’, is a kaleidoscope of high-energy dance routines with different styles of music and dance movements, showcasing the stamina of the cast and dancers. Along with the choreography and dance arrangements that highlights their dancing skills. This is further punctuated when you consider that the ensemble also includes children. The same is witnessed with the final number ‘Joseph Megamix’ which had everyone up and dancing.
The Direction from Laurence Connor is a masterclass in musical theatre on an open stage. The scene changes are seamless, the onstage presence of each character is powerful and solid.
Connor, like other creative team members, are no strangers to Lloyd-Webber productions. In particular, Connor holds awards, such as Australians Green Room Best Musical Director. Other directing awards in the USA, UK and in Korea for Best New Foreign Production and Best Ensemble. Additional directing awards for musical productions, including Jesus Christ Super Star, The Phantom of the Opera. (25th-anniversary concert at Royal Albert Hall) Conner received a Tony nomination for Best Revival Miss Saigon on Broadway. Other directing credits encompass a range of significant musicals, Chess, Les Misérables, School of Rock and Oliver.
It is truly a privilege to experience a production that flows easily and looks natural.
Congratulations to the casting team who have compiled an ensemble of talented performers, with a cast of thirty-two children, the youngest being nine. From which many of the children began their training at the age of two.
The senior cast members blend well. There is no distinction between them, with younger players taking on adult roles, highlighting the school play aspect of the production.
With all of the dialogue set to song, the narrator is a demanding role. Paulini masterfully pumps life and energy into the part as she sings, dances and weaves between scenes bringing all the threads together. Her five-octave vocal range extends her characteristics within each setting. Her online presence blends with the other cast until stepping out for a narration.
Being so versatile, Paulini also takes on other lesser male parts. Paulini’s versatility as a high-energy triple-threat performer is worth the admission price. It is clear that she, like the rest of the cast, are having an absolute ball.
Euan Fistrovic Doidge as Joseph is a pure delight. As a fresh-faced innocent character, Doidge fits the brief perfectly. His stage presence is commanding while blending in. Joseph stands out when wearing his Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, a feature of the director’s design.
Doidge’s credentials are solid, with credits as Sam Wurlitzer in Victorian Opera Happy End 2021, Tony Manero in GFO’s Sydney production of Saturday Night Fever 2019, Felicia in the Australian Tour of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Doidge is also the youngest nominee for a Helpmann award for Best Actor in a supporting role in a musical, playing San Marco in A Chorus Line.
In Melbourne, the role of Pharaoh is played by Shane Crawford.
While some may consider Crawford’s appearance a novelty inclusion, the role is played seriously. Crawford is creditable as the stage presentation of the flamboyant tongue-in-cheek Pharaoh: who is slightly awkward and out of place, thus an excellent contrast to the rest of the ensemble.
Considering Crawford’s professional experience, it would be unfair to expect a high-level Australian Rules Footballer to be, let’s say, a ballerina.
From a creation’s stance, Crawford held the part, and the audience loved and applauded his involvement.
There are many musical highlights, such as One More Angel in Heaven, which is wonderfully set up in a Hillbilly, Boot-Scooting, Yee-Haw, and Rip-Roaring number.
Those Canaan Days, set to typical French style “chansons réalistes,” best recognised through the French Singer Edith Piaf, is a beautiful way to represent the depressive situation of drought and famine. The confusion between “Canaan” and “Can-Can” changes the darker atmosphere to one of bright undergarments and celebratory dancing.
Poor, Poor Pharaoh / Song of the King is a fantastic musical take on Egypt being the place of Gold and Glitter, in the likeness of present-day Las Vegas. To further punctuate this point, the musical style is unmistakably Elvis Pressley style Rock ‘n Roll.
Every musical number has received dance updates; Some numbers incorporate a mix of musical styles, which is used to represent the cosmopolitan nature of that time.
Timeless songs like Any Dream Will Do are classics, and anchors to the show remain faithful to the original.
The new production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat hits the bullseye,
It presents children as the heart of the show—a wonderful celebration of musical and stage delights.
The feel-good response from the audience is infectious.
It’s full of action and variations showcasing the many musical elements and dance styles.
Being bright, light and peppered with humour, this non-stop, the high-energy season should not be missed.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Regent Theatre, Melbourne
Closing January 15th 2023.
From February 11th 2023