By: Emily Maybanks
Wednesday (15th November 2017) afternoon saw me – a twenty-something-year-old university student – sitting in the front row at Swansea Grand Theatre, feeling quite out of place surrounded by an entire theatre full of either people over the age of 60 or groups of school children, but nevertheless excited to watch my second favourite musical of all time for the first time in almost a decade. I went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
The show was written and produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The first performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was on the 1st March 1968 at the Old Assembly Hall, Hammersmith – meaning that next year (2018), it will be 50 years old!
I have quite a history and connection with this musical. At the very end of primary school, it was our leavers’ performance. Back then, I was so shy and I played the part of a servant with only a single one-worded line to say. However, I’ve always loved the music in the play. I remember whilst we were “training” for our performance, our teacher showed us a video of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which featured Maria Friedman as the narrator and Donny Osmond as Joseph. In 2008, I went to see Joseph in the West End in London with my family when Lee Mead was Joseph; I was thirteen at the time and had a huge crush on Lee Mead.
I think returning to this musical almost ten years later was interesting for me. I went simply to enjoy myself and forget about everything for a couple of hours, but I found myself sitting there and thinking about how easy it is to relate to so much of the songs and the story of Joseph to everyday life today.
For the 2017 tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Joseph was played by Joe McElderry, winner of the X Factor in 2009 with ‘The Climb’ by Miley Cyrus. The whole cast were more or less a reasonably youthful cast, aside from a couple of older characters.
Throughout the performance, I found myself connecting the lyrics and the story to aspects of everyday life, and my life. I felt as though I had more of an emotional connection to the songs and the story watching it again. The whole story of Joseph being singled out by his brothers for being “the favourite child” made me think of how so many people get singled out or bullied for a variety of reasons – from being LGBT, physically or mentally disabled etc., for being too clever, and generally just for being themselves. I also appreciated the dreamer aspect so much. It made me think about how it’s important to have a dream and not to give up on that dream, no matter how long it takes to reach it. We live today in a world where there is so much pressure to succeed to society’s high standards so it’s important to have a goal and a dream – just something that gives you a little bit of hope sometimes when everything feels overwhelming.
Watching Joseph in the theatre was great. November is a difficult month for a whole range of reasons, so it was nice to just switch off for a couple of hours, sing my heart out, and simply enjoy watching a musical that I’ve grown up with. I was so impressed with the whole performance – the music was fantastic, the acting was brilliant, and everything from the costumes to the displays was great – it was all fabulous. One of my favourite parts was the ‘Song of the Pharaoh’ with the sort of Elvis vibe and cool displays with fireworks and smoke. My favourite songs from Joseph will always be ‘Close Every Door,’ which was packed full of emotion, and the famous ‘Any Dream Will Do’.
The encore at the end was wonderfully powerful; and Joe McElderry locked eyes with me four times – the first time, he smiled at me; the second time, he waved at me; the third time, he blew a kiss at me and the fourth time, it got too awkward so I looked away. This intense eye contact experience really made my afternoon. I left the theatre with enthusiasm and positivity back as well as a hint of motivation. It’s always been such a feel-good musical, and this was no different, even though I had much more of an emotional connection with the whole thing this time round.