With its first stage production in 1970, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a musical closing in on its 50th anniversary.
But the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice hit is showing none of its age in Blue Mountains Musical Society’s camp and colourful production that opened at the Blue Mountains Theatre on Saturday night.
The feel-good show brims with energy and humour and is certain to have its family audiences leaving on a high.
First-time director Brittanie Shipway brings children to the fore from the start, using a school excursion to frame the well-known biblical tale. It is among a museum’s exhibits that the exceptionally disciplined children’s cast hear the story of Jacob’s 12th and favourite son Joseph, who is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers but ends up as the Pharaoh’s right hand man.
More importantly, this allows us to hear some incredibly catchy songs.
Joseph features an eclectic mix of musical styles from country and western, to calypso to Elvis Presley-style rock and roll.
Ben Fairbairn brings the right mix of sweetness to the role of the angelic Joseph while delivering a stirring performance of Close Every Door, a rare powerful moment among the lightheartedness of most of the other musical numbers.
BMMS evens up the musical’s gender imbalance (almost all the significant characters are male) by casting female actors as three of Joseph’s brothers. As Judah, Jessica Lovelace makes the Caribbean-infused Benjamin Calypso a high point. Lovelace will direct BMMS’s next production of Jesus Christ Superstar but hopefully audiences will see her return in a performing roles also.
John Forbes received one of the most effusive reactions on opening night for his delightfully dramatic performance of the French-styled torch-song, Those Canaan Days (complete with beret). And as the Pharaoh channeling Elvis, Alex Casalini makes the most of his moment in the spotlight.
Holding this diverse mix together excellently is Jacqui Dwyer as the narrator whose strong vocals guide us through the myriad of musical genres with ease.
John Grimshaw’s deceptively simple yet clever pyramid-themed set serves the cast superbly and it’s great to see footage of the talented orchestra (performing in a room next to the theatre) beamed on stage at the end of the show.
Sonya Pascolini’s choreography is also a stand out – as are some well-judged moments of slapstick and the odd running gag (literally odd when it comes to the wonderfully incongruous Where’s Wally who keeps popping up among the ensemble).
Funnily enough, for a garment important enough to feature in the musical’s title, Joseph only gets to wear his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat for what seems like five minutes. It’s safe to say the audience’s impression of this production will last much longer.
Blue Mountains Musical Society's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs at the Blue Mountains Theatre until November 6.