I bloody love Joseph. If you didn’t do it in primary school, you’re doing it all wrong. Yes, I once played the Narrator as an awkward twelve year old, and since then I’ve known all the colours of Joseph’s coat (it was red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and grey and purple and white and pink and orange and blue, in case you were wondering. And no, I didn’t have to look that up). And so with my biblical nostalgia in tow I headed to see Devonshire Hall’s production, wondering if it could ever transcend the “primary school production” reputation.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the plot of Joseph is as follows: narrated by an unnamed storyteller, the musical is a loose retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob’s favourite son Joseph and his envious brothers. As recounted in the Book of Genesis, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and told their father he was dead. Plucky Joseph, however, was a hard worker with a knack for interpreting dreams, which gave him an in with both his first owner and later the Pharaoh of Egypt.
The role of Joseph, played by Rob Cotteril, with smudged eyeliner that made him look like a cross between a sexy pirate and an indie kid who’s done an all-nighter at Stone Roses Bar, was executed with endearing nonchalance coupled with a genuinely impressive and strong vocal. The three narrators, played by Ella Carter, Lily Moult and Mared Williams, all had phenomenal voices and were literally like angels, gliding around the stage clad in white and singing better than I ever did as a twelve year old trying not to throw up on my mum in the front row. Although there were some wobbly moments and snaps out of character that were hard to ignore, the show was impressive considering it was put on purely by first years living in only one of Leeds’ many accommodations. The majority of the singing was truly brilliant (Adam Shaikh as Reuben deserves a special mention here) but some awkward and dodgy choreography was definitely reminiscent of my primary school production (Sway! Step and clap! Grapevine!). The best moment was undoubtedly Benjamin’s Calypso, when Joe Cumbo’s delightfully and hilariously camp Judas had the audience in stitches – I was near tears, I’ve literally never seen moves thrown about like that, I’m surprised he didn’t dislocate a hip in the process. Got a bit weird though when he ripped open his shirt at Joseph on the line “take me” – they are brothers, after all. Not sure undertones of incest were intended by Lloyd Webber. Anyway. It’s just one of those undeniably feel-good musicals; I was singing “Go go go Joseph” the whole way home with a big smile on my face, and that can’t be said for all shows – after all, Les Mis may be a masterpiece but who comes out of it wanting to do anything except have a good cry about death and the injustices of 19th century French monarchism?
We all know Joseph is probably Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shittest musical, and that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s face resembles the reflection in a spoon, but as a show it’s universally loved nonetheless.