Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
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|Joseph and the Amazing
1991 Revivals Logo
|Music||Andrew Lloyd Webber|
|Basis||The story of Joseph in Genesis|
1968 Colet Court cantata
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is the second musical theatre show written by the team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and their first performed, as its predecessor, The Likes of Us, was not performed until 2005.
It was released as a film in 1999.
Alan Doggett, head of the school’s Music department, for their annual spring concert, commissioned the piece. Doggett conducted the performance, whose orchestra and the singers consisted of pupils of Colet Court, the preparatory school for St Paul's School.
Lloyd Webber's father, William, felt the show had the seeds of greatness. He encouraged and arranged for a second performance – at his church, Westminster Central Hall – with a revised and expanded format. The boys of Colet Court sang at this performance, which also included a rock group. It received positive reviews: London's Sunday Times said it was a new pop oratorio. Novello agreed to publish the work and Decca Records recorded it. By its third performance at St Paul's Cathedral on 9 November 1968, it had been expanded to 35 minutes and included several new songs and David Daltrey (front man of British psychedelic band Tales of Justine) played the role of Joseph.
In 1970, Lloyd Webber and Rice used the popularity of their second rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, to promote Joseph – which was advertised in America as a "sequel" to Superstar. Riding on Jesus’ coattails proved profitable for this " Technicolor coat" and the US Decca recording topped America's charts for three months.
In September 1972, Joseph was presented at the Edinburgh International Festival, directed by Frank Dunlop and starring Gary Bond. A month later the production played at London's Young Vic and Roundhouse theatres. It was preceded by an act of medieval mystery plays that lead to the "Coat of Many Colours".
On February 17, 1973, theatre producer Michael White and impresario Robert Stigwood at the Albery Theatre mounted another Edinburgh production. It was accompanied by a piece called Jacob's Journey, with music and lyrics by Lloyd Webber and Rice and a book by television comedy writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. Jacob's Journey, which contained a great deal of spoken dialogue, was eventually phased out in favour of the through-sung score of Joseph. The first production of the show in its modern, final form was at the Haymarket Theatre, Leicester.
Its American journey to Broadway is almost as storied. The first American production was in May 1970 at the College of the Immaculate Conception in Douglaston, New York. Colleges and amateur groups expressed great interest in the show and there were two professional productions in New York but it was not until 27 January 1982 that it reached Broadway at the Royale Theatre where it ran for 749 performances.
Its family-friendly storyline, universal themes, and catchy music have made Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat one of the most dependably profitable titles in musical theatre, particularly when producers cast a headlining star – and, according to the Really Useful Group, more than 20,000 schools and amateur theatre groups have successfully put on productions.
With Neighbours soap opera star Jason Donovan in the lead, the (expanded) show was restaged in 1991 at the London Palladium with Steven Pimlott as director, winning the 1992 Laurence Olivier Awards for set design and costume design. When Donovan left, former children's TV presenter Phillip Schofield slipped into Joseph's coat. A "far more modest" production starring former Boyzone singer "rather diminutive" Stephen Gateley "with cartoon cut-out sets and props and naff panto choreography" previewed in Oxford in December 2002 before moving to Liverpool over Christmas 2002 and finishing up in the West End at the New London Theatre in March 2003.
In 1999, a video version was released with Donny Osmond in the title role. Osmond had toured North America in the role and in 1992 had recorded a soundtrack CD. Richard Attenborough and Joan Collins also appeared in the video.
A revival of the 1991 Palladium production would be the subject of BBC One's second search for a West End star, channel controller Peter Fincham announced". after the success of 2006's BBC/ Lloyd Webber Saturday evening prime-time talent show series, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?. That show's viewers had voted for Connie Fisher as a new West End leading musical theatre actor to play the part of Maria von Trapp in Lloyd Webber's London Palladium revival that year of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, a format adapted for US television as NBC's 2007 series Grease: You're the One that I Want!.
Introduced by Graham Norton and with the participation of Lloyd Webber, Doctor Who, Torchwood and musical theatre star John Barrowman, West End and Broadway lead Denise Van Outen and impresario Bill Kenwright, the prime-time Saturday evening series Any Dream Will Do!, sought a new leading man to play Joseph. More than 3 million viewers cast telephone votes during the 9 June 2007 series final and, said Norton on air, they made 25-year-old West End understudy Lee Mead "officially the people's Joseph".
- Act I
The story is based on the Biblical story of Joseph, found in the book of Genesis. It is set in a frame in which a narrator is telling a story to children, encouraging them to dream. She then tells the story of Joseph, another dreamer ("Prologue," "Any Dream Will Do"). In the beginning of the main story Jacob and his 12 sons are introduced ("Jacob and Sons"). Joseph's brothers are jealous of him for his coat, a symbol of their father's preference of him ("Joseph's Coat"). It is clear from Joseph's dreams that he is destined to rule over them ("Joseph's Dreams"). To get rid of him and make the dreams not come true, they sell him as a slave to some passing Ishmaelites ("Poor, Poor Joseph"), who in turn take him to Egypt.
Back home, his brothers, accompanied by their wives, break the news to Jacob that Joseph has been killed; they show his tattered coat smeared with his blood – it is really goat blood – as proof that what they say is true ("One More Angel in Heaven"). In most productions, one brother, Reuben, usually sings the solo; the song often segues into a celebratory hoedown after the bereft Jacob has tottered off the stage.
In Egypt, Joseph is the slave of Egyptian millionaire Potiphar. He rises through the ranks of slaves and servants until he is running Potiphar's house. When his master's wife makes advances, Joseph spurns her. Potiphar overhears, barges in, sees the two together – and jumps to conclusions. He jails Joseph ("Potiphar"). Depressed, Joseph sings Close Every Door – but his spirits rise when he helps two prisoners put in his cell. Both are former servants of the Pharaoh and both have had bizarre dreams. Joseph interprets them. One cellmate, the Baker, will be executed, but the other, the Butler, will be returned to service ("Go, Go, Go Joseph").
- Act II
The Narrator talks about impending changes in Joseph's fortunes ("A Pharaoh Story") because the Pharaoh is having dreams that no-one can interpret. Now freed, the Butler tells Pharaoh (acted in the style of Elvis Presley) of Joseph and his dreams interpretation skills ("Poor, Poor Pharaoh"). Pharaoh orders Joseph to be brought in and the king tells him his dream involving seven fat cows, seven skinny cows, seven healthy ears of corn, and seven dead ears of corn ("Song of the King"). Joseph interprets the dream as seven plentiful years followed by seven years of famine ("Pharaoh's Dreams Explained"). An astonished Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of carrying out the preparations needed to endure the impending famine, and Joseph becomes the most powerful man in Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh ("Stone the Crows"). In the 2007 London revival, Pharaoh has a new song (King of my Heart).
Back home, the famine had caught up with Joseph's brothers, who, led by the brother Simeon, express regret at selling him and deceiving their father ("Those Canaan Days"). They hear Egypt has food and decide to go there to beg for food and mercy, not realizing whom they will be dealing with ("The Brothers Come to Egypt"). Joseph gives them food and sends them on their way, but plants a golden cup into the sack of his brother Benjamin ("Grovel, Grovel"). When the brothers try to leave, Joseph stops them, asking about the "stolen cup". Each brother empties his sack, and it is revealed that Benjamin has the cup. Joseph then accuses Benjamin of robbery ("Who's the Thief?"). The other brothers, though, beg for mercy for Benjamin, imploring that Joseph take them prisoner and set Benjamin free ("Benjamin Calypso").
Seeing their unselfishness and penitence Joseph reveals himself ("Joseph All the Time") and sends for his father. The two are reunited ("Jacob in Egypt") for a happy conclusion. The show ends with two songs ("Finale: Any Dream Will Do (Reprise)/Give Me My Coloured Coat"), and for curtain call in some big productions, a rock/disco medley of most of the musical's major numbers ("Joseph Megamix").
The story is completely sung through and there is little spoken dialogue. The entire show runs under two hours and is occasionally performed without intermission.
The show's "book" is "a light sending-up of the Bible story on which it relies", according to Nicholas de Jongh, theatre critic of London's Evening Standard. In fact, the show makes no mention of God, and does not necessarily come across as religious in nature. Its tone is playful and light, and it features a number of musical pastiches – "Those Canaan Days" is often sung with faux-French accents, "There's One More Angel in Heaven" is cod-Country & Western and, sometimes, Pharaoh performs his "Elvis" routine twice.
Notable in the composition of the music is the variety of styles used by Lloyd Webber, including parodies of French ballads ("Those Canaan Days"), Elvis-inspired rock and roll ("Song of the King"), western ("One More Angel In Heaven"), 1920s Charleston ("Potiphar"), Caribbean style ("Benjamin Calypso") and disco ("Go, Go, Go Joseph").
"Prologue" is a late addition to the show, not included in any recordings produced before the 1981 Broadway production starring Laurie Beechman and Bill Hutton; the use of "Any Dream Will Do" at the start of the show (and the renaming of the closing version as per the above list) dates from the 1991 revival.
The UK touring production circa 1983-1987 (produced by Bill Kenwright), included an additional song "I Don't Think I'm Wanted Back At Home", which was originally part of Jacob's Journey. Sung by the title character, the brothers jokingly throw Joseph out of the family home, throwing a number of props at the lone Joseph who is seen in a spotlight – first a suitcase, then a cane and top hat, leaving our hero to tap-dance his way to the end of the number. The tune has been recycled into numbers in By Jeeves and The Likes of Us.
Lee Mead, who had given up his part in the ensemble – and understudying the part of Raoul – in Phantom of the Opera to appear on BBC One's Any Dream Will Do! was on 9 June 2007 voted by viewers of to star in this revival of the show's 1991 London Palladium production by the late Steven Pimlott, with Bombay Dreams lead Preeya Kalidas cast traditionally as female lead in the role of Narrator.
Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group on 27 June 2007 announced that it would donate all receipts from two special performances of the revived West End production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to the BBC's Children in Need charity appeal. Ticket sales for 16 July's booked-out final preview and the sold-out 16 November performance, on the night of the annual Children in Need telethon, will be donated to the BBC-run charity. Cast members, the Really Useful Group added, would not get the usual first night gifts on 17 July — the money would, instead, go to Children in Need.
Tickets for the show's originally-planned six-month run sold so fast that leading Man Lee Mead's home town newspaper, The Echo, reported on 30 June that in three weeks all tickets for the first three months were sold out, and the producers had extended the show's run — and Mead's contract — until 7 June 2008. Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group confirmed that on 3 July 2007, adding that Mead, who had already foregone a week of holiday to which he was contractually entitled, would be taking off four weeks — in January, March and May 2008. Before opening night, the producers had banked £10 million in receipts from advance ticket sales, the Daily Telegraph's Arts Correspondent Nigel Reynolds reported.
"Mead delivers...[He] is contracted for at least a year," David Benedict in his review for Variety, "For as long as Mead chooses to continue in it, Joseph is, commercially speaking, the safest of bets."
In popular culture
- In The Simpsons episode " We're on the Road to D'ohwhere" the devoutly Christian Ned Flanders is heard singing a parody of the ending of "Coat of Many Colours" when he finds his record of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Marge's yard sale.
- In the Seinfeld episode " The Wig Master," Kramer is seen wearing the coat, which he borrowed from the Broadway production's wig master.
- The Reduced Shakespeare Company has been known to mock the show during their performances, on one occasion suggesting that murdering an audience as they watched a performance of Dreamcoat would be an act of mercy killing.
- On the January 8, 2008 episode of Pardon the Interruption, Tony Kornheiser referenced the play when referring to Jamarcus Russell's sweatshirt at the BCS National Championship.