Joseph started as a 15-minute children’s school “pop oratorio” by a composer (Andrew Lloyd Webber) and lyricist (Tim Rice) not much older than their audience. Its popularity led the pair to work it up into a full-scale musical, but it’s essentially still a show for young people or for those who enjoy a youth-oriented extravaganza.
And Harvest Rain’s production does this well. It’s an exhilarating, energetic show of the type which has you tapping your toes and leaving the theatre with a smile.
For most audiences these days, the scriptural source of the story has not so much been forgotten as never learnt. Who remembers, for example, that the popular title of the story was “Joseph and his coat of many colours”? But director Robbie Parkin fills in the gaps with his program notes, including extracts from the biblical text and an explanation of the deeper meaning of it all.
The musical can be enjoyed at various levels. Very entertaining are the parodies of different music styles, including Marlene Dietrich, calypso and rock’n’roll. There’s great humour also in the bright and chirpy words, such as the brothers’ “Being told we’re also-rans/ Does not make us Joseph fans” and the chorus’s “Don’t give up Joseph, fight till you drop/ We’ve read the book and you come out on top”, as well as the description of Pharaoh:
Whatever he did he was showered with praise
If he cracked a joke then you chortled for days.
No one had rights or a vote but the king:
In fact you might say he was fairly right-wing
These work well because of clear articulation by soloists, chorus and kids’ choir.
The principals are all top class. Caroline Berenger is a confident and assured Narrator with a beautiful voice of perfect clarity and pitch, while Matt Ward’s Joseph is convincing and very well sung. Bryan Probets’ Pharaoh is a top class comedy act. Most of the supporting roles are also well handled, while the small but more than adequately amplified orchestra doesn’t miss a beat.
Added to this are splendid dancing performances and brilliant lighting effects which expand the vigorous colour and movement to make this a dazzling show.