Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (Lower Ossington Theatre)

Joseph1This Joseph is sure to delight, now playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre in Toronto

Guess who went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at Lower Ossington TheatreThis guy! Seems I never quite grew out of my love for this silly show; it still makes me giddy the way it did in my early 90s youth. 

I’m a big fan of the early Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, the ones he wrote with lyricist Tim Rice (who is far more clever than any of Webber’s later collaborators). Joseph is a fun pastiche of musical styles tailored to the content of each scene. Like their next venture, Jesus Christ Superstar, it tells a biblical story with contemporary flourishes. Unlike Superstar, Joseph is very much intended for children.

Old Testament patriarch Jacob has a dozen sons, but he favours one in particular: Joseph, the “special one” to whom he gives the famous coat of many colours. Slighted by their father and, even worse, taunted by Joseph’s prophetic dreams of greatness, the other eleven brothers plot to sell Joseph into slavery.

I’m glad that director Alan Kinsella and his design team have crafted a lively and enticing spectacle that never feels overwrought or tech-heavy. This production is light on props and scenery and that makes the use of them all the more striking. In fact, their appearance is often intentionally funny. With all its goofy self-awareness, I loved seeing a cactus or a lamppost rolled in from the wings to set the scene.

Michael Galloro’s set is simple and suitably impressive. Glowing multi-coloured hieroglyphs adorn the sides of the stage. They feel weighty and ground the action, giving the impression of an ancient storybook.

I also thoroughly enjoyed this production’s staging. Despite some iconic moves that almost every production gives us, Jennifer Thiessen’s choreography feels fresh and immediate. Knowing the show so well, I was pleasantly surprised by how swept away I was by the overall look and feel of it.

It’s easy to showcase a charismatic Elvis-like Pharaoh and a charming Joseph, then fill the rest of the show with stylish distractions, but the ensemble here is great. The brothers even managed to thrill me with my least favourite musical number: “Those Canaan Days,” where they lament the loss of their carefree past in the style of an old French torch song. Even as a kid, I found the song and that particular scene in the show boring, but this persuasive cast has made it something truly compelling!

And that’s the word that best fits my feelings towards LOT’s production: compelling. Joseph requires a lot of nudging and winking that can drown out the tender moments, but that doesn’t happen here. The heartache and joy, while always over-the-top, feels substantial.

Mitch Wood’s rendition of “Close Every Door” is quite stirring and his Joseph generally has an affable quality that sells him as a good natured and resilient guy who is always in awe of his own story.

My favourite character since I was thirteen years old is the Narrator. Bianca Heuvelmans is warm and endearing as she interacts with the story she’s telling. Yeah, the kid in me still wants to be taken by the hand and lead through a colourful adventure full of sequinned loin clothes and neon sphinxes.

This will surely delight kids. As for you grown-ups, there’s a lot to a appreciate about this production, especially if you’re already a fan of the musical.


Photo of Mitch Wood and ensemble by Seanna Kennedy