I must start with an apology – I am aware I am likely to upset many people with this review, and I am extremely sorry. For them.
It is a testament to the reputation of the Island Savoyards that the four performances of ‘Joseph’ were sold out before the first had even started, and it is to the many people who were unable to get a ticket that I direct my apology, because I have to tell you that you missed an incredible show. From the chorus number at the start to the grand finale, the stage was packed with colour, movement, entertainment and a huge amount of talent.
Every single performer is to be congratulated, from the children’s chorus, all of whom were perfectly in tune and in step, through the adult chorus who all managed several costume changes and a wide variety of singing and choreography challenges, to the lead roles.
It would almost be unfair to single out individuals in a show in which the sum is greater than the parts: most of the big numbers were enhanced by the visual and auditory chorus backing. However, Nathaniel Meller as the traditionally Elvis-inspired Pharaoh received arguably the greatest applause of the show, which the cast were clearly expecting, as he was ‘encouraged’ to repeat his song. The hip movements, the curling lip and the crowd of adoring Egyptian women (including a fan being manhandled away) all made an already popular song into an impressive piece of theatre.
The Brothers, while performing their songs mainly as a collective, managed to showcase some amazing singing and dancing talent, and Harley Mackness as the Narrator created a presence through her clear voice, at times reminiscent of a young Kate Bush, and clever stage placing to enable her to be at once part of the story and detached from the characters within it.
It was however Jamie Jukes in the title role who, rightly, dominated the stage throughout. From the moment he walked into the limelight through to the finale in which his eponymous coloured coat magically covered the stage, his stage presence and strong vocals, underpinned with real emotion, captured the audience. I doubt I was the only one with tears in my eyes as he lay prostrate in jail, gradually taking heart as he sang ‘Close Every Door’.
The director and stage management deserve congratulations too for the seamless movements between scenes and the introductory and final numbers which allowed the audience to enjoy a little more of the fine musical talents on stage – I particularly liked the effect of bringing the cast onstage in multi-coloured modern outfits at the start, and handing out their character costumes, underpinning the idea that this is a story being told. The clever use of one large prop as variously a coffer, a chair and a chariot, and another as the seat of Potiphar’s Wife and jail bars was inspired, and the costuming was perfect, from an all-white-clad Joseph at the start among his colourful family, through the Egyptian scenes to representations of cattle and horses through headdresses, all of which managed not to upstage the amazing Dreamcoat itself.
The 15 piece orchestra, hidden behind the stage, underpinned the vocals perfectly, speaking of hours of hard work rehearsing: every one of the musicians, while unseen, was just as vital to this show as the cast on stage. The other element worthy of note was the choreography: from the children to the lead actors, not every one of whom can be a natural dancer, were in step in some quite challenging and varied movements –so often a show is let down by the back row of the chorus, but not here.
In fact, the whole show is of West End quality, and I found myself entranced throughout, as did the audience around me, aged between nine and ninety. Even my husband, who is not generally a lover of musical theatre, said afterwards that he would love to see the show again, if he could get his hands on more tickets. But of course he can’t, as the show is a very well-deserved sell-out!
Congratulations to everyone involved with this amazing show, and apologies again to those who missed it. You genuinely missed a real treat.