The Experience: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Streaming
Andrew Lloyd Webber is giving us 48 hours to try on his Joseph to see if it fits, and boy does it ever. He’s helping us stay home safe and sound every Friday with these offerings as he gifts us with the opportunity to stream a few of his stage-to-screen musicals on the new YouTube channel: The Shows Must Go On for free, which is just so glorious. Go, go, go, Andrew! Last weekend on that page, I was able to find the beautifully filmed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, starring Donny Osmond, that was the first of many to premiere on this awesome channel. But you have to be on top of your game because unlike the National Theatre’s own streaming-from-home presentations that are available for one week, these Andrew Lloyd Webber shows are free of charge for only 48 hours. So pay attention and schedule it in, so you don’t find yourself mimicking me, who forgot, and had to pay YouTube $4.99 CAN to watch it Sunday night when I discovered I had missed my chance. But I wasn’t going to let that get the best of me because Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, surprisingly, is a show I have heard about, basically forever (although more specifically when I saw the ALW compilation show, Unmasked at the Paper Mill Playhouse), but never seen live. Nor have I seen this well crafted filmed version. But after watching the clip below of Osmond and the glorious Maria Friedman singing “Any Dream Will Do“, I felt watching was a sorta must-see event. It’s a completely disarming and charming number winning me over quickly and easily, that if I wanted to continue calling myself a true theatre junkie, I better do what I needed to do. And seeing Joan Collins in a frumpy wig playing the piano is just an added bonus one has to indulge in. Big hug Alexis,
“If you think it, want it, dream it, then it’s real“, says the utterly sweet and feisty narrator, played beautifully by the engaging Friedman, glowing radiantly within its absolute charm. The deliciously rainbow cuteness of this filmed version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is infectious, much to my surprise. It is a simpler, more kid-friendly comedic musical when compared to that other biblical tale set to music, Jesus Christ Superstar (which will become available this coming Friday for 48 hours over Easter Weekend on the same YouTube channel), but that comparison doesn’t really seem fair. It’s a whole different bag of tricks, and with lyrics, once again, by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, this “coat of many colors” tells “the tale of a dreamer, like you“, following the optimistically joyful Joseph, played lovingly by the impressive Donny Osmond, straight from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. The large family photo of father Jacob, touchingly portrayed by Richard Attenborough, isn’t as mutually loving as he would like to believe. His other sons, all eleven of them, aren’t as pleased with Joseph as their father is, and when Jacob gives his favorite son, Joseph, that cloaking work of art, the totally amazing Technicolor coat, their goat, and ire, is got, and bad things happen to good people when jealousy reigns, shoving and selling Joseph far away from his loving father and not-so-loving family of son siblings.
This was the first Lloyd Webber and Rice musical that was actually performed publicly (their first collaboration, The Likes of Us, was written in 1965, but not performed until 2005). And in its innocence, we find the beauty of this fun simple piece of musical theatre, and the lessons to be learned. Watched over by an auditorium full of uniformed schoolchildren brandishing smiles, candles, and good cheer, the kids are thoroughly engaged, just like us, eagerly wanting to join in and bring youthful colorful excitement to a piece made just for them. There is a celebration, even in the grieving of the brothers, And when the rich Potiphar, played with glee by Ian McNeice, and his beautiful, but decadently evil wife, gloriously portrayed by the very game Joan Collins, find Joseph at their beck and call, Joseph’s good luck shifts from bad to good and back to bad once again. Things don’t go well for Joseph at the end of that seduction. He is locked up in a cell, caged (and looking pretty darn good) but finds the optimism to lovingly sing his sad pretty song beautifully. “Go, go, go, Joseph“, is what is he is cheered on by his fellow man, and utilizing his nack at dream reading, with or without his Dreamcoat, good fortune comes knocking once again in the form of the Butler, joyfully played by Alex Jennings. That Butler definitely did do it, and specifically for Joseph’s ultimate salvation. Sorry about that Baker though, played hilariously by Christopher Biggins. His opportunity cake is definitely not on the rise like Joseph’s.
When the perfect Robert Torti enters with an Elvis swagger and sting as the mighty Pharaoh, you better get down on your knees with joy. There’s a run of crazy dreams out there, and Joseph is asked to interpret gloriously in the “all shook up” “Song of the King” that rocks forth seven fat cows, seven skinny (and vile) cows, seven healthy ears of corn and seven dead ears of corn for our hip-swiveling pleasure. It’ll “flip your lid“, this number, particularly within Torti’s madcap deliciousness. So Joseph, here’s the punchline: that crazy dream’s meaning once again is the thing that elevates your luck up and beyond once again, but this time to the heights of what was first dreamt of at the beginning of this fun and sweet-natured musical tale. The whole candy flossed thing is guided by the wonderful Friedman narrator, bringing quirky flippant responses all the while sipping margaritas at Joseph’s side, to great comic effect.
“We read the book, and you come out on top“, she wisely tells us and him, and thanks to the eleven brothers’ newly found honesty and honor when things look bad for the sweet angelic Benjamin, played glowingly by Nick Holmes, the tide is turned and all is forgiven. The show actually has only a few spoken lines of dialogue and is almost entirely sung-through with glee, like a silly Magic Flute without all that messy opera to alienate the kids. The family-friendly story is graced with familiar and satisfying themes anchored by catchy music and lovely performances. It was first presented in 1968 as a 15-minute “pop cantata” at Colet Court School in London and recorded in an expanded form by Decca Records in 1969. But it was only after the success of Jesus Christ Superstar, the next Webber and Rice conceptual biblical piece, that Joseph was given the chance to secure its place in theatrical history through a number of staged amateur productions in the US starting in 1970. In 1972, it was given a professional veneer as a 35-minute musical at the Edinburgh International Festival by the Young Vic Theatre Company, directed by Frank Dunlop, paired with another, more talk heavy biblical tale. And even as it was undergoing major modifications and expansions, the musical premiered in the West End. Finally, Joseph was presented in its modern, final longer form at the Haymarket Theatre in Leicester several times through 1978, pretty much never looking back. The musical was brought over to Broadway in 1982, garnering several major award nominations, just like it did every time it has been revived in the West End, which is many, unlike Broadway, which it has yet to revive since its first production.
This particular version, the 1999 direct-to-video film adaptation, directed with pleasure on his mind by David Mallet and based on Steven Pimlott’s 1991 London Palladium production, spins its many colors out with joyful childlike glee. I wasn’t prepared to like the filming so much, but going in with low expectations served it well. Completely fun and entertaining, the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat film brings us smiling out from our self-isolation and whisked me playfully into its heart and joy with ease.
It brings with it so much fun, even though, I must admit, I am looking forward with much more excitement to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s next stage-to-screen release, Jesus Christ Superstar on The Shows Must Go On. YouTube channel this Friday for 48 hours over Easter Weekend. That show is one of my all-time favorites since I was a kid listening to the cast recording on my record player in my living room. Dancing and singing up a storm, without really understanding the biblical base. I guess I’ll be doing that again this weekend, as I hope to watch this version and the NBC live version that will be rebroadcasted on Easter Sunday night.
Continuing beyond this particular Superstar Friday, Andrew Lloyd Webber will be releasing a full-length musical each Friday, including the most important one (to ALW), his disaster musical, By Jeeves, a show he is very very fond of, and one I’m curious to see. And just for the record, it is there, for you and me to watch for free! So bravo ALW! I know where I will be on Friday or Saturday this and every week going isolating forward. “It won’t be easy. You think it’s strange. When I try to” squeeze in all the wonderful entries into this ever-expanding world of online theatre: the London National Theatre’s streaming of several of their NT Live titles on their YouTube channel including Jane Eyre (April 9), Treasure Island (April 16), and Twelfth Night (April 23); Feinstein’s/54 Below’s launch of its concert streaming series #54BelowAtHome; the live-streaming of Melissa Errico’s Sondheim Sublime concert at Guild Hall; Seth Rudetsky & James Wesley phenomenal fun support of The Actors Fund with the Stars in the House play reading every Saturday (and Wednesday which I can’t do-I’m working, silly) at 2pm (along with their now-staple show every single (wow!) day at 2 and 8pm); and the upcoming Friday night screening of the new musical, Pride and Prejudice on Streaming Musicals, all gloriously being presented on YouTube. (I’m sure I’m missing some things, so be good and inform me). It’s a theatrical streaming feast, and I’m gonna eat big and happy during my self-isolation. But please, #StayHome #StaySafe #StaySane and, more importantly, #StayEntertained.