Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Playhouse, Edinburgh, until Sat 19 Jan
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s enduring piece of theatrical bubblegum may have started life as a modest school production, but the atmosphere in the packed Playhouse auditorium is as feverish as a stadium gig. In the role of the eponymous visionary, local lad Craig Chalmers – one of the finalists from the Beeb’s Any Dream Will Do talent quest – provokes the kind of shrieking and dancing in the aisles generally reserved for a teen idol. Chalmers is undoubtedly pretty of face and blonde of locks, his hairless torso buffed to a comic sheen, and even manages to sing in tune most of the time, but he’s easily out-crooned by fellow returning son Keith Jack (Any Dream Will Do’s runner-up) and surpassed in the charisma stakes by Wayne Smith (from ITV’s Grease is the Word) as the Elvis-impersonating Pharoah.
If you can forgive the crassness of the libretto, which reduces Joseph’s multicoloured riches-to-dingy-rags-to-riches story to a simplicity worthy of My First Bible, not to mention the naked cash-in following the popularity of the TV show, Joseph zips along at a nifty pace thanks to some energetic performances from the ensemble cast and a smattering of catchy, cheesy numbers. But what’s most striking about this production is the amount of padding wrapped around what is essentially a 70-minute one-acter, with lengthy musical interludes at the start of both halves and a 15-minute reprise of all the best songs at the end as the entire cast takes to the stage for the ‘Joseph Megamix’. Andrew Lloyd Webber must be cackling all the way to the bank.