Grand Opera House, York
Till Sat Apr 30; Wed-Thu 7.30pm, Fri-Sat 8pm; matinees Weds & Thurs 2.30pm, Fri 5pm, Sat 2pm & 5pm
Talking to a woman in the interval, I asked her what she thought of Joseph.
“It’s quite bizarre,” she replied. “All the guys in cowboy hats… do they always do that?”
Rare is the theatregoer who has made it comfortably into adulthood having never seen Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. But her newbie’s analysis of the show is, when you think of it, spot on.
A biblical story told in the form of a series of songs pastiching popular musical styles should never work. But it does as – 46 years after the show’s premiere – it still has the power to pack out the Grand Opera House with delighted fans of every age.
The secrets? Those songs are supernaturally catchy. And it’s an immensely cheering experience, especially when done with all the verve and sparkle shown here.
Joseph isn’t an easy part to play. You have to find somebody who remains steadfastly likeable, from his various incarnations as arrogant spoilt sibling, wretched prisoner and ruler on high.
And they must look presentable, but not in any suggestible Game Of Thrones sort of way, while half naked.
Joe McElderry succeeds on every level. It is impossible not to warm to a man with that grin. His teeth are amazing. It looks like his face has been possessed by the spirit of Osmonds past.
And the X Factor audience knows their stuff: the 2009 series winner can sing. When he opens his lungs at the end of Close Every Door To Me he almost blasted open every fire exit in the house. Remarkable.
His reality show co-star, Lucy Kay off of Britain’s Got Talent, has, well, got talent. As the Narrator she is on stage throughout, ushering us through the story with the charm of your favourite primary school teacher. And that classically-trained voice hits some amazing highs.
From gospel to a hoedown
The band of brothers come in every shape and size. Their combination of comic timing and beefy harmonies was a joy. And the three handmaidens add fizz and finesse to every dance number.
All are very good with a prop too. Look out for instantly inflatable sheep with explode into prominence like woolly airbags.
Is Emilianos Stamatakis the first Greek actor to take on the role of the Pharaoh? Either way he did a flawless Elvis impersonation (although we could have done without his additional song King Of My Heart).
Well done to the chorus of children from Stagecoach York, who managed to both sing beautifully and stay impressively still for most of the show, barring the odd hand-jive.
Highlights? There was a great gospel-inspired take on Go, Go, Go Joseph, and an energetic do-si-do for One More Angel In Heaven.
Joseph ends with, basically, a reprise of the whole musical. King of the curtain call Berwick Kaler could learn from the number of false endings here; by the finish it felt like there was more encore than show.
But you can’t flame such an uplifting finale. The Megamix brings dancing to the aisles and the audience to its feet at the end of a thoroughly entertaining night out.