Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: Vibrant, Vivacious, Virtuoso

08/05/2024

Molly Taylor (she/her) reviews recent production at the Grand Opera House

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Image by Charlie Kirkpatrick

By Molly G Taylor

There are very few experiences that parallel going to the theatre. Gorging yourself on popcorn and sinking into plush seats. Putting on your twirliest of dresses and your curliest of hair (is that just me?). The opportunity to escape your own life for a while.

I went into Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat yawning, tired from a day at university and rushing into town because I cannot be on time for anything. I left grinning from ear to ear, feeling as though I had been invited into an adventure, where not only a coat could be technicolor, but the whole theatrical world.

After enjoying a glass of bubbly at the bar, we were guided to our seats to await the performance. Not only was the cast and crew incredible, but the whole team at Grand Opera House York truly made our experience. They were patient, attentive, and helped with all my anxious ramblings of not knowing where to go.

With the audience chatting amongst themselves in their seats, it took a few movements before we sensed movement on the stage. Initially, my friend and I shared the same sentiment. “Why are there children dancing around?” we thought to ourselves. Has the show started? What’s going on?

Having the privilege to know Reuben Khan – who starred as Joseph – outside of the theatre, we quickly spotted him, perched above the chatterings and gigglings of the children. We wondered what he was waiting for.

We were not left wondering for long, as the narrator, portrayed by Hannah Shaw, spun both the children and the audience into a world of magic. The younger members of the cast were no longer just children, but stars in their own right. And as the costume rack was drawn off stage, passing in front of Hannah, she was suddenly costumed all in sequins – an impressive transformation in itself. There was no time to double take – the performance had already begun.

All the way through, the stage was a kaleidoscope of colour. Ribboned hues created curtains filtering the back of the stage, and the lighting shifted through tones of blue and red.

Balancing a musical that is simultaneously comedically camp and beautifully personal, is a difficult task – one that I believe was executed wonderfully throughout the show. Hannah’s echoing high notes, as well as the almost Elvis-inspired voice of Amy Barrett, who performed as the Pharaoh, filled the theatre with a skill of performance that prevented the comedy from escaping away with itself.

This is not to say that the laughter and fun was not one of its most special elements. The choreography of both the ensemble and the brothers enraptured me throughout – it was smooth and synchronised, satisfying to watch. And yet, each brother stood out as an individual. I particularly enjoyed the expressions of Judah, played by Cyanne Unamba-Opara; her hunches and quirked eyebrows had me and everyone else in fits of giggles.

This comedy was superbly paralleled by the beauty of the ensemble, who characterised the wives and the sensual subjects of the pharaoh. The glittering gold and blue costumes paired with the fluidity of the dance gave an acute impression of the ensemble as Can-Can dancers. Watching these women perform was like watching movie stars when you are little – they were wonderful.

Any concern that I had for a number of the cast being young was expelled at the entrance of the opening number. I remember being in shows myself at that age (shows less impressive than this one) and I can recall how tiring they were. It is a true skill to perform at that high an energy for so many performances - at whatever age. For that, I commend the whole cast.

If I had the time to go through name by name, pointing out the sheer talent of every member of the cast, I would undoubtedly. They reminded me of the joy of the theatre, and for that I could not be more grateful.

But I cannot complete this review without covering the standout performance of Reuben Khan as Joseph. Even from watching in the audience, you could see how he can bring a group of people together. His energy never wavered, his voice never faltered. Every song he sang was utterly beautiful – “Close Every Door” was exceptional. The sheer range of tone and emotion displayed had me, in all honesty, in tears.

Reuben describes his experience as ‘hilarious’, ‘joyful’ and ‘knackering’, and these feelings truly come to life within the performance – I can see how much this cast enjoy performing together merely by glancing. I think perhaps that was the most singular element for me. No matter how talented a cast, there is no colour if there is no joy. The best part of the show for me has to be the love and the happiness I found whilst watching.

I look forward to seeing what these talented individuals get up to in the future.

Editor’s note: This performance was seen on Friday 12 April at Grand Opera House York. It was presented by York Stage.