Review: Joseph at the Empire Theatre - 'A guilty pleasure without the guilt'

Way, way back, many decades ago, the Rice-Lloyd Webber perennial Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was first performed. In fact the musical is 50 years old.

Wednesday, 19th February 2020, 1:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th February 2020, 2:20 pm
The finale of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
The finale of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

I had never actually seen an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical before. But I was urged to pop along to the Empire Theatre by a friend, a long-standing and devoted ALW fan.

Despite this being my first time, I knew what to expect. I was familiar with the show’s catchiest numbers beforehand, and even knew a good portion of the lyrics.

I remembered the number “Joseph’s Dreams”, in which our hero comes across as so smug and arrogant (“Could it be that I was born for higher things than you?”) that the audience can be forgiven for sympathising with his 11 brothers when they attempt to have him done in.

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Mark McMullan as Joseph, right, shows that there is more to him than Britain's Got Talent.

But in the lead role, Mark McMullan shows in his professional debut that there’s more to him than Britain’s Got Talent. He went down a storm and deservedly so.

Alexandra Doar as the Narrator has a wonderful clarity to her voice that the role demands. A special word should also go to the young performers from the Northern Star Theatre Arts stage school in Sunderland, who provided a wonderful choir throughout.

Joseph’s 11 brothers are the real backbone of the show. Between them they are rarely off the stage in a variety of roles and it was quite exhausting even just watching them.

This was a most entertaining night at the theatre.

Joseph's dad Jacob with his 11 rotten brothers.

The show quite wisely doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are a couple of good gags, plus three stuffed sheep that the audience found wholly and amusingly unconvincing.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is, as its title would suggest, a very colourful affair with lots of nifty costume changes.

Many children in the audience had clearly learned some of the songs at school. It’s a very family-friendly musical; one number with the tarty Mrs Potiphar notwithstanding.

A guilty pleasure without the guilt. We suggest you see it if you can. Any night will do.

Joseph is showing at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday, February 22.