NODA Review - Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
'Joseph...' occupies a special place at the heart of amateur theatre: an early work from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice which has become a firm favourite with youth groups and has become almost an apprentice piece for budding thespians across the land. This sung-through piece, filled with pastiches of different musical styles (and with a wicked wit from the effervescent pen of Tim Rice) is both accessible and tuneful and provides a showcase for the talents of any society. With the story pieced together with scenes having a mosaic-like structure - imagine Michael Tippett's 'King Priam' with Ronnie Hazlehurst on music duties and you're halfway there - the show bowls along merrily giving a large cast plenty of fun and the audience a tuneful and breezy evening's entertainment. In the wrong hands, there can be a danger of the show turning into the world's longest school assembly but fortunately, this was not the case with the Hippodrome Youth Theatre's production which had colour, sparkle and fun by the sack-full.
A commendably large cast filled the stage (complimenting the capacity audience crowding into the auditorium) and a superb orchestra under the baton of Helen Clarkson really added a professional sheen to proceedings. The great sound from the band was a particular highlight of the evening and a large choir made up of the youth group and HYT Juniors complimented the band to create an impressive musical display: full marks here and congratulations. Heading the cast list as the titular Joseph, Tom Heys had a solid confidence and charm in the role and was assisted by Jessica Clarkson as the Narrator - a role which is more demanding than is often given credit for. The two young performers are required to lead many of the ensemble numbers and have a number of solo songs too and Jessica proved to be a great choice of Narrator: a strong clear voice, commendably good diction and stage presence aplenty added up to a very strong performance. A humorous turn from Paul Robinson, as Jacob, more than ably assisted by his sons and wives, really gave the show a solid backbone with well thought-out numbers which were also real highlights of the show: 'One More Angel in Heaven' and 'Canaan Days' bounced along with humour and a tongue-in-cheek charm and Joseph's brothers really brought out the best from each other in their scenes together. A snake-hipped Tom Howard brought the requisite swish and swagger to the role of Pharaoh and the Potiphars - Noah Bhimull-Hilton and Madeleine Jefferson - made the most of their cheeky interlude.
Musical numbers and choreography were uniformly outstanding: hard work and intelligent thought had obviously gone into the production as the whole show really came together as more than just the sum of its parts. The production team and the cast really brought out the humour of the piece and knitted the different scenes together into a coherent whole. Strong technical support - with excellent scenery great colourful costumes and a solid lighting plot - helped to create a sumptuous looking show and even the odd hiccough (Potiphar's mic didn't want to play ball on the evening I was in the audience) didn't dampen the spirits of the enthusiastic cast who were clearly enjoying themselves and certainly didn't stop the audience rewarding the show with a standing ovation.
In conclusion and in summation, I must say that the overall impression was of a production which had clearly been lovingly crafted and which a good deal of thought and hard work had gone into. The flashes of humour which lit up the show were a positive delight: really quite outstanding and intelligent, demonstrating a clear understanding of the piece and adding much to the production. The barnstorming routines and the sumptuous sound from the cast and the orchestra really linger in the memory and my thanks go to all at Todmorden for a really enjoyable evening.