Why Joseph is the best musical of all time

Why is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat my favourite musical?

Before we start – yes, that is my Joseph Steiff bear. Yes, it sings. Yes, it was expensive. Yes, it’s my most treasured possession.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, aka Joseph (as it shall now be known throughout this blog) is a timeless classic. First performed in 1968, its sheer brilliance has powered it through tours across the UK countless times. Why has it captured the hearts of so many across the world?

It’s feel good

Joseph is based on a biblical story, which sees our hero picked on by his brothers as he’s quite clearly his father’s favourite. Okay, so Jacob didn’t really need to make it so obvious by handing over a swanky new multi-coloured coat, but that’s hardly Joseph’s fault, is it? We know Joseph’s special thanks to his dreams / visions that tell him he’s destined to rule over his brothers. Again, fair enough his brothers aren’t exactly going to be his biggest fan, but to sell him off as a slave to the Ishmaelites and telling poor old Jacob his favourite son’s dead seems a little extreme.

Fear not! Joseph works his way through life like an expert gamer inside a particularly difficult RPG. Thanks to his skill in interpreting dreams, he lands a job as Pharaoh’s right hand man. It’s never been easy for our Joe, but he doesn’t half work hard to get where he is.

Of course Joseph’s brothers make a reappearance, begging for food and money as they’ve fallen on hard times. Joseph tests their true intentions and, upon realising they’ve changed their ways, helps them and he’s finally reunited with his dad.

Full of morals, heartbreak and love… what more could anyone ask for? Joseph’s been through the mill alright – sold by his brothers, seduced by a cougar, chucked in prison, saved by a Pharaoh… I reckon the bloke deserves a happy ever after.

The songs are fantastic

You might not recognise the titles, but you’ll definitely be singing along to Any Dream Will Do, Go Go Go Joseph, Poor Poor Joseph, Stone the Crows and Benjamin Calypso. And they’re just my all-time favourites (Close Every Door To Me, frankly, is a little melancholy and awkward if Joe’s just standing in his lil toga.)

As with the plot, the songs are upbeat and hopeful, and carry a weighty nostalgia I’ve yet to discover with any other musical. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical style is recognisable throughout, but there’s a light, preppy glee running throughout the show I just can’t put my finger on.

All together now… ‘it was red and yellow and green and brown and…’ *precisely half a century later* ‘… BLUE.’

It’s spectacular, without being show-off

A cute kid’s choir, a chariot of gold, various spectacular backdrops (Joseph moves around a fair bit, after all) and of course Joseph’s amazing technicolour dreamcoat are just highlights of this visually stunning show.

It’s hard to create the show without elements of spectacle that has the audience right there in the ‘wow’ moment. However, it’s also tricky to go OTT. There’s not a great deal of room for ‘clever for the sake of it’ moments and clunky set changes as the show is sung-through. This helps keep the show simple, without losing impact.

It appeals to the celebrity

Let’s recap: David Cassidy, Jason Donovan, Phillip Schofield, Donny Osmond, Stephen Gately, Lee Mead, Gareth Gates, Ian “H” Watkins, Joe McElderry…

Who wouldn’t love to step into Joseph’s dreamcoat? Attracting big names and big talent, the show almost always has a class act playing the eponymous part.

It’s Andrew Lloyd Webber

The musical was originally written for one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mates, who wanted to use an original pop cantata for his school choir. Having been well-received, Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice developed a full production of the musical. And the rest is history.

The variety of musical styles used in the musical screams ‘just a bit of fun’. It demonstrates Lloyd Webber’s musical prowess and versatility beautifully. Can he write Calypso, jazz and rock and roll? You bet he can.

Joseph – my fun facts

If you’re a big Joseph nerd like me, you’ll love these…

  • Tim Rice played Pharaoh in the original recording… and the Narrator in another
  • It’s ‘the’ amazing technicolour dreamcoat, not ‘his’. Might not be a big deal to you, but if you get it wrong in a pub quiz I will be *that guy* who makes sure you don’t get the point
  • Since 1979, there’s been over 15,000 performances of Bill Kenwright’s production of Joseph
  • The show’s a classic school production (around 20,000 schools have put on Joseph). If you didn’t perform Joseph at school, you’ll never go to bed with Jacob and Sons squealing in your ears
  • There’s apparently a singalong version of the show, and we need to work together to find it

What’s your favourite musical?

(After Joseph, right?) I’d love you to get in touch and share your favourite musicals with me! You can also find me on Twitter. 

 

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