Playing at the Regent Theatre, Melbourne until January 15, 2023. Opening at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre in February, 2023.
The one question I had rolling around in my head over and over again after seeing this latest production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was – is this the catchiest, most upbeat and fun musical ever created? It may very well be, and this revival of the evergreen biblical romp from the legendary team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice might just be the most exuberant interpretation of the show we’ve seen here in Australia.
Chronicling the story of Joseph and the Book of Genesis, the show grabs you right away thanks to the supreme talent of Paulini, who plays the narrator here. Having never seen her in a live performance, I was blown away by just how astounding her voice is. Guiding us through the many different characters and settings of Ancient Egypt, Paulini’s narrator holds the show together with ease.
Depicting what is often a sad and depressing tale in an upbeat, sunny way, we follow the plight of the outgoing Joseph (Euan Fistrovic Doidge), the favourite son of Jacob, who is sold into slavery by his 11 vindictive, jealous brothers, eventually finding himself imprisoned before finding redemption thanks to his uncanny ability to interpret the dreams of those he meets.
Having seen the 1992 Melbourne production of the show which starred David Dixon as Joseph and Tina Arena as the Narrator, this new version compares extremely favourably, with some interesting changes including incorporating more child actors into the proceedings and also with more of an emphasis on dance numbers and elaborate choreography that I don’t recall seeing in previous versions of the show.
As Joseph, Fistrovic Doidge is superb. Boasting a booming voice and with a commanding presence, Fistrovic Doidge instantly wins us over with his charm and comic timing. The quite extensive supporting cast is excellent, never missing a beat with their vocals or choreography, but there is one notable exception.
Much has been said of former AFL star Shane Crawford being cast as the Pharaoh, for a range of reasons, but whatever was behind the decision to cast a former footballer with extensive TV experience but no musical theatre background is truly baffling. And while Crawford is obviously trying as hard as any performer out there on stage, his vocals are extremely weak and his big musical number falls flat because of it. It really does drag down what was up to that point a near-perfect show and it feels more akin to the sort of stuff they used to trot out at the end of season player revues on the Footy Show. At least Crawford is not in drag here.
If he was only required to act, Crawford would have been fine, it’s just that his very weak vocals stand out in a cast with heavyweights like Paulini and Fistrovic Doidge. Thankfully he is only in the show for around 10 minutes or so, and certainly doesn’t ruin the overall experience. Maybe he will improve as the show continues its run, but in the performance I saw he really did stand out for all the wrong reasons.
Watching the show this time, I really came to appreciate how many different musical genres Rice and Lloyd Webber decided to incorporate into the narrative, from the country number One More Angel in Heaven, to the wonderful steel drums that propel the Benjamin Calypso and the Elvis-inspired number that the Pharaoh belts out. There’s even a high-spirited cheerleading routine at one point which really did energise the crowd.
Overall, the show is a triumph mainly thanks to Paulini’s wonderful performance and I will definitely be keen to see her in any future production she is a part of. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is definitely one of those shows that will be performed as long as musical theatre exists, and it is great that a new generation who may not have seen it before now will get to experience it for the first time during this current revival.
It’s impossible not to have a mile-wide smile on your face after seeing this show, and the standing ovation the cast received at the performance I attended was testament to that. Buoyant, boisterous and beautifully crafted – this latest revival of Joseph is truly a dream come true.
Tickets and more info on the show can be found at: https://josephthemusical.com.au/