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Review of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I think it's becoming clear that me and Bill Kenwright (productions) are not going to get along. This to be perfectly honest is more my problem than the commercially successful Mr Kenwright, CBE, producer of hit and hit productions touring the country.

Unfortunately the now routine mobile phone announcement got me off to a bad start as with the usual warning the loud disembodied voice decided that he needed to announce the stars of the show before it began. So herald all we have "stars" of The X-Factor and Britain's Got Talent in the house everybody. This moment smacks at the shallowness of the whole production to me. This whole thing is about taking a show that is tried and tested, throwing just enough money at it to get it on the stage. Oh and let's put a couple of stars on the stage that may not be entirely suited to the roles or to performing on stage in general, but will bring the crowds in! That it does, the crowd is packed and going wild. They will dance and cheer at everything. Yes folks I have become a theatre snob, and I can smell lack of effort (from the producers) on the stage apparently a mile away now.

Joseph is played by The X-Factor star, Joe McElderry, and while he is perfectly adept at performing most (but certainly not all) of the songs he has, he unfortunately is very shallow on stage. When not singing, he has zero stage presence and barely even goes through the motions when he has to do a bit of acting. The narrator is played by Lucy Kay (the Britain's Got Talent star), and while she is clearly the better of the two, certainly in the vocal range. There is still a distinct lack of emotion and performance for such a vital role. She is the driving force of the show and on for much of the duration, and just doesn't quite have the personality for the role.

The stars are the ones that are the so-called unknowns behind them. Once again anyone from the ensemble could have stepped into the lead roles and clearly created more depth to the performances. Both Boris Alexander and Lewis Asquith are superb in their two roles, Alexander especially in the comical role of the Baker and Asquith a hilarious turn as the Butler.

Marcus Ayton absolutely lights up the stage as Issacher, all wide-eyed enthusiasm and beaming smile and an amazing singing voice. Tilly Ford brings immense style and sauciness to the role of Mrs Potiphar alongside Henry Metcalfe's authoritative Potipher (and also an excellent Jacob).

Henry Metcalfe is also responsible for the choreography and while this is entertaining and quite perfectly performed, it can at times be relatively plain when compared to other similar shows. There is just nothing particularly special about it.

Sadly the lack of special description can also be laid at the design from Sean Cavanagh. No matter how many inflatable sheep you pop-up doesn't disguise the fact that a set mostly consisting of a staircase with lights along the front is quite frankly dull. Oh and adding another collection of stairs in the middle later on will not help. Its never entirely eye-catching if the set is reminiscent to that you have climbed up to get to your seat.

The music from the orchestra is perfectly acceptable, however how many pieces is a bit unknown as very oddly they are not listed in the programme. My best guess is that like a previous Kenwright production I saw, the music is provided by the absolute minimum of performers.

However at the end most of the audience were up on their feet dancing and clapping away. I just sat leaning out from my aisle seat trying to still see the stage. I have seen much, much better over the last couple of years and I was not going to stand for this one despite being blocked out by the crowd.

Joseph puts on a show without doubt, but this is very much theatre in its most cynical moneymaking way and very much for the X-Factor generation. It packs the auditorium without doubt, but if there was a day where this was the only thing on offer at the theatre, I for one would stop at home. Oh and I wasn't in the mood at the end for the longest curtain call known to man.

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Performance reviewed: Tuesday 3rd May, 2016 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

Joseph is on at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 7th May, 2016 before continuing its tour until the July 2016. Details can be found at http://www.josephthemusical.com/uktour/

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/


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