By Ilona Cabral
★ ★ ★ ★
Last night, the smash-hit Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat rocked up on the shores of Cardiff Bay. Since its first presentation, as a 15-minute ‘pop-cantata’ at Colet court School in 1968, this show has been regenerated and reinvigorated countless times: from West End productions to the 1999 film-adaptation starring Donny Osmund. Through each interpretation, this story and soundtrack have become beloved by generations, and last night’s performance did not disappoint.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s musical is based on the “coat of many colours” story from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. It follows the story of Joseph, a dreamer/psychic who believes that he is destined for a greater purpose than his eleven shepherd brothers. These brothers become angered by their father’s blatant favouritism of Joseph and Joseph’s pious dreams and sell Joseph into slavery, inadvertently setting him onto the path towards greatness.
The musical is undoubtedly a masterpiece production, which keeps the audiences chuckling and jigging throughout through Weber and Rice’s ironic song choices and styles: it includes Elvis-esk rock songs, barnyard swing and ballads to name a few.
In this production Joseph was played by Jaymi Hensley, a member of the X-factor boyband, Union J. With his dancing talent and soaring, almost operatic, vocals it was difficult to believe that this was his first big musical show. It is certainly no mean feat to successfully bring something new to this iconic role, but Hensley did this, twisting the vocals to differentiate himself. However, I do feel that some of the raw emotion in the songs were lost due to his vocal acrobatics. For me, ‘Close Every Door’ is one of the most powerful songs in the production, showcasing Joseph’s despair and feeling of utter rejection from society, but Hensley’s version felt rather flat. Yet, I would say that his performances did become increasingly emotive in the second half of the show as he engaged more with the audience.
Meanwhile, staring out at the audience with over-dramatic gestures and emotive vocals, Trina Hill perfectly conveyed the role of the Primary School Narrator. She made every audience member feel like a child in her class as she led us all through this fantastic musical.
The staging was also highly skilled, with the choir of young children not so subtly arranged on the steps of the stage, to remind the audience of the narrative element of the show. Fabulous gaudy sets also reinforced the show’s 60s rock identity and blow up sheep and goats proved humorously used props.
Credit must also be given to the Choreographer, Henry Metcalfe, and designer, Dan Samson, for their toe-tapping routines and incredible costumes (including three Technicolor Dreamcoats!)
Throughout this show there was delicious sense of nostalgia but with a subtly re-vamped overlayer. For me, it did not quite reach the emotional intensity that prior performances had but, honestly, by the end you didn’t really mind – you were too busy dancing!
Regardless of the number of versions of Joseph produced, I don’t believe that this show could ever become too old or twisted for the audience not to beg for an encore!