I like to imagine that when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice sat down to write Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, they threw every music genre known to man into a hat, and picked a new one out each time they started a new song.
The punchy little show (which comes in under two hours, including intermission) is as eclectic as Joseph’s coat is colourful, sashaying its way through jazz, country and western, rock and roll, and classic Broadway-style numbers with aplomb.
It all leaves you feeling somewhat breathless, but herein lies the secret to Joseph’s success: an exceedingly easy-to-follow story told through catchy, now-iconic tunes and plenty of razzle dazzle.
The Biblical story tells of Joseph, the youngest and most favoured of 12 brothers, who is gifted a colourful coat by his father Jacob. In a jealous rage, his siblings sell him into slavery, faking his death to his distraught father. Meanwhile, Joseph is taken to Egypt, where he winds up working for the Pharaoh - who is a dead-ringer for Elvis, naturally.
If you’re looking for complex characters, deep pathos or nuanced social commentary, this is not the show for you.
The Lunchbox Theatrical Productions tour currently in New Zealand is certainly a crowd pleaser, but won’t garner much critical acclaim.
The marketing materials trumpet that the show has been "reinvented for a new generation", which entails Jacob’s sons dressed in modern-day street clothes, angels on hoverboards, light-up sneakers and buzzy digital projections.
It turns a passably haphazard show into more of a mess - the appearance of a Donald Trump-piloted Air Force One muddying the waters even further.
But like I said, it’s a crowd pleaser and there are some bright spots. Nádine Hoffeldt lends a bright, steadying hand to the Narrator - one of the few female roles in the show.
Earl Gregory brings a quiet intensity to Joseph, and shines in ‘Close Every Door’. At the other end of the scale, Jonathan Roxmouth makes an entrance as Pharaoh and works the room like a charm.
However, both were lacking in the clarity needed to help them stand out in the larger numbers among an ensemble bursting with pep and enthusiasm.
At its heart, this is still the Joseph you know and love. It might leave you scratching your head at times, but you’ll still go home singing ‘Go go go Joseph...’.
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat plays at Auckland’s Civic Theatre until April 30 and will also visit Christchurch and Wellington.