Watching Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Blackpool Opera House was a bit like stepping back into a time warp.
Not quite so far as the tale’s Biblical BC setting, nor even to 1970 when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice premiered the work, more like to the 1990s when the show enjoyed much publicity thanks to stars such as Jason Donovan, Philip Schofield and Donny Osmond in the title role.
Little has changed, even down to casting a housewives’ favourite sort as Joseph, this time out Joe McElderry, X Factor 2009 winner, dons the loin cloth, and wins even more fans with his ever-growing vocal skills.
Relying perhaps a little too heavily on his cheeky grin to act the part, he certainly ups the ante when it comes to those famous songs Close Every Door and a touching take on Any Dream Will Do, both showcasing the very best of his voice, although lacking a little in diction.
Also showcasing some impressive pipes was the unknown Samantha Noel as the Narrator, standing in as understudy for Britain’s Got Talent singing starlet Lucy Kay on opening night.
While the show’s all about Joseph/Joe, it’s the Narrator who scarcely leaves the stage, stringing together quirky set pieces which draw on country, calypso, Elvis and Parisian accordion music to tell the tale of Joseph’s betrayal by his envious brothers, his rise to fame and the subsequent return to his family.
And Samantha handled the pressure and vocal range - in both pitch and styles - with absolute ease, perhaps more consideration should be given to trained musical performers than star casting these days, something productions of Joseph have long relied on.
The ensemble cast - complete with young Blackpool talents in the Joseph choir, from the Michael Hall Theatre School - put on a good, energetic and family-friendly show despite the seriously dated production values; choreography and set design both seemed to lack inspiration and technical flair when compared to more fresh works touring the country today.
Joseph’s story is as timeless as the Bible it comes from, and Lloyd Webber and Rice’s catchy work remains, for me, its greatest asset.
Perhaps it’s time to close every door on this touring version, give the show a break, and come back with some new ideas to make the most of what can still be a wonderful introduction to musical theatre for children.
Show is on at the Opera House until Saturday.