EAST MIDLANDS THEATRE
Reviewed by Phil Lowe
There was a time that every Tom, Dick and Joseph professional musical theatre company, school production, amateur musical society, UK and Ireland touring company and the local garage choral group was enthusiastically presenting some kind of a production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Or in the case of the garage production, Joe and The Amazing Technicolor Re-Spray. Worryingly, the singular colour of sugary pink has taken over the musical theatre stages in a plethora of Legally Blondes of late and we wonder whether this means the end of Poor Poor Joseph. Well no, not at all, there was a national pro tour in 2017 and Joseph still has a huge fan base who will return time after time to see their favourite show. This current production by Nottingham Operatic Society proves this by being a complete sell out.
So the question is; have the hugely popular Nottingham Operatic Society chosen well in their revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s early 1970s musical theatre story of Joseph and his brothers, retold through various musical styles? Does the coat of many colours still dazzle brilliantly or has it become worn out and simply faded and shrunk a little in the big wash of time?…Actually the word ‘amazing’ is very apt to describe this tremendously alive production of ‘Joseph’ and its eager ensemble do it full justice from opening scene to the last curtain call. Blown away are thoughts of this golden oldie not being allowed to shine properly anew as Nottingham Operatic bring a real vitality and tons of well choreographed and beautifully sung youthfulness into every scene. It is, to use a phrase that is probably very rarely if indeed ever, exploited by reviewers, a ‘dream’ of a production.
From a show that had its genesis at the Colet Court School in London in 1968 and, subsequently, has had over 200,000 productions produced worldwide, Nottingham Operatic’s show adds its own high production values admirably to the list. It is interesting that this particular ALW and Tim Rice show has almost no dialogue and thereby becomes an early example of a sung through musical.
Of course we have the well known songs, ‘Any Dream Will Do’, ‘Close Every Door’ and plenty of others like ‘Benjamin Calypso’, ‘Poor Poor Joseph’ and ‘One More Angel In Heaven’ that tell the biblical story of the once family favourite suddenly made an outcast. For musical theatre value this show has it all and is very much a family show. The proper delight would be to be a young person who has no history of knowing the show and coming to it for the first time and revelling in its many colours. How cool would that be?
The Egyptian inspired set works terrifically in allowing us to move from scene to scene unencumbered by complex set changes. It has bags of modern style and works well in communion with the angled and atmospheric lighting rig and lamps.
This evening we see Mark Coffey-Bainbridge as a full voiced and charmingly witty Joseph. This role is shared throughout the week with Zac Charlesworth. Another shared role is that of the narrator. This evening we’re enjoying a confident, caring and vocally sound performance by Louise Grantham. Kate Williams plays the role in some other performances.
This is very much an ensemble piece with the stage constantly busy with vital performers of all ages adding their voices, their movement skills and characters throughout. The French inspired ‘Those Canaan Days’ song proves one of the highlights of the evening for this reviewer. The additional female support and characterisations in this spectacular piece works especially well and it is a delight to see the younger children in the cast too.
On the whole the diction of the cast is clear and sharp and the company supplying the dry ice smoke machine can be confident that it works – perhaps a little too enthusiastically.
The Joseph MegaMix at the end is a perfect end to a joyous evening at Nottingham Theatre Royal.
In its 50th year Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is another long term success for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and this time the Nottingham Operatic Society are bringing their own version to the stage as they too celebrate an Anniversary.
I thought most people have seen or at least know this story but I discovered my friend I was bringing along didn’t – so for anyone else in the dark – Joseph is the favourite of Jacobs 12 sons living in Canaan. The brothers are jealous of Joseph and plot to murder him but at the last minute sell him into slavery and off to Egypt brother Joseph goes. A rocky start lands Joseph in prison but the Pharaoh soon learns of Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams and makes him his number 2. As Joseph rises into great power his brothers visit Egypt to beg for food. Not recognising their brother, Joseph decides to teach them a lesson to see if they have changed their ways before all the family are reunited again.
The role of Joseph is played by secondary school teacher Mark Coffey-Bainbridge who looked more than comfortable up there. Great vocals and comedy timing, Mark portrayed the role with ease and could quite easily hold his own in a professional company.
Anyone who has seen Joseph before knows what big shoes the person cast as the Pharaoh has to fill and Dan Armstrong did not disappoint as The King – a clever use of props that transformed him from being in bed to a dazzling gold suit.
Joseph is full of well-known songs including “Close Every Door” and “Any Dream Will Do”, what I enjoyed about this version was the interpretation of some of the other songs:
Joe Spoors as brother Gad and his country version of “One More Angel In Heaven”
the Parisian “Those Canaan Days” was very clever – great vocals from Shaun Hanrahan (Simeon) combined with the use of Pierrot clowns and the sheep were genius
Judah (Ray McLeod) with the “Benjamin Calypso” and the ensemble incorporating the word banana
Other notable performances for me include Conor Larkin as youngest brother Benjamin – a star, Joe Butler’s baker with the added Nottingham slang “do you want a cob”, some beautiful dancing from the wives and of course a massive well done to the children.
Big shout out to Ruth Greaves in the ensemble – looking stunning as a showgirl you were captivating to watch and it was clear you embraced the whole show. I look forward to seeing you up there on stage again soon.
A fun interpretation of a classic musical, whilst the stage was basic the casts enthusiasm more than made up for it. Over use of the smoke machine at the end of part one and a few too many people on stage in parts were the only obvious signs this was an amateur performance.
125 years of amateur productions is a fantastic achievement Nottingham Operatic Society– a great polished company, giving so many people a great opportunity to do something they love on one of the finest theatres in the country. Here’s to many more fantastic years.
The University of Nottingham – IMPACT
Reviewed by Emma Heasman
One of the few remaining operatic musical theatre societies who are still standing strong after their establishment in the reign of Queen Victoria, The Nottingham Operatic Society performed the much loved Joseph and the Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat, which stole the hearts of audience members spectating at the Theatre Royal.
“HIS LYRICAL VOICE AND ACTING WERE SENSATIONAL, SHOWCASING HIS PASSION AND TALENT AS AN ACTOR”
After much praise and celebratory words from Andrew Lloyd Webber shown in the programme, The Nottingham Operatic Society showcased an amateur performance with a cast of all ages and abilities, all of whom showed passion not only in the performance, but for the original script itself. Lead actor Mark Coffey-Bainbridge stated “it had always been [his] dream to play the role of Joseph,” and this was clear through his acting. His lyrical voice and acting were sensational, showcasing his passion and talent as an actor.
The set itself was simple and at times I’d hoped that the performance showcased a few more backdrop and staging changes for different scenes. However, when considering the huge cast, it is understandable that only so much could be done with the space. Director Dave Partridge created a simple staircase set and triangular window at the back of the stage, and was able to utilise these in various creative ways during scenes, and reflect the many emotions that were performed.
A key way in which staging was used to reflect emotion was lighting. Lighting played a key part in mirroring the mood on stage, including bright blue lights to reflect sadness and a loss of hope. Another moment of commendable lighting is reflected in the opening and closing scenes of the play, when the cast sang and danced to ‘Any Dream Will Do.’ When singing about the many colours of Joseph’s coat, the lights changed to match the colours, turning the theatre truly technicolor.
“A MODERN, COMEDIC AND UPBEAT PERFORMANCE”
As the performance developed it was clear they tried to fit Joseph’s story around the 1970’s. The array of colourful clothes, and the representation of The Pharaoh (played by Dan Armstrong) as Elvis, created a modern, comedic and upbeat performance without jeopardising the original plot of the story as described in the bible.
“HIS TALENT AND ENTHUSIASM WAS SASSY AND SOUNDED LIKE SOMETHING STRAIGHT OUT OF THE LITTLE MERMAID“
Another comedic moment was the scene of Judah and his brother’s singing for their brother Benjamin’s innocence. Judah, played by Ray McLeod braced the stage with a lei around his neck and sang a reggae/Hawaiian number. Sounding like Sebastian the crab, his talent and enthusiasm was sassy and sounded like something straight out of The Little Mermaid, bringing all audience members to laughter.
“THEY WERE ABLE TO BALANCE BETWEEN UPBEAT MODERN CONVENTIONS AND A MORE TRADITIONAL APPROACH”
Although extremely comedic, it was interesting to observe a change in mood for certain scenes. When Joseph was imprisoned by his slave master, the mood changed from a cheery and cheeky scene to a sorrowful one. Joseph was isolated on stage with a bright blue light and smoke, whilst the booming of lyrics “Do what you want with me, hate me and laugh at me” overwhelmed the audience. This showcased the versatility of The Nottingham Operatic Society, as they were able to balance between upbeat modern conventions and a more traditional approach.
The song ‘Close Every Door’ also serves as a reflection by Andrew Lloyd Webber on other historical situations, not only acting as a direct link to the Joseph story in the Old Testament, but also referring to the holocaust: “Just give me a number instead of my name.” The chilling scene and gloomy song and choreography, acted as a moment reflection half way through a happy and upbeat performance.
“A WELCOMING AND WHOLESOME PERFORMANCE WHICH APPEALED TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE”
One thing that made The Nottingham Operatic Society’s performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat stand out compared to other performances was their diversity. From start to finish there were actors and actresses of all ages and abilities, and although some of the cast struggled to keep up with the choreography, the inclusion of so many people made their mistakes lovable, as it created a welcoming and wholesome performance which appealed to all members of the audience.
Another small criticism to make was that there were some technical difficulties. On some occasions the microphones were not switched on time, meaning some lyrics were not heard when different cast members were singing. Some microphones were also left on, meaning you could hear some words from those backstage by accident.
However, overall only some criticism can be given. The performance was sublime, and with Joseph showcasing his huge parachute-like dreamcoat in the final scene, it just summed up the performance in one word – spectacle.