Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Friday 15th November 2013
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's early biblical collaboration has well and truly stood the test of time. The upbeat energy, musically varied score and tongue in cheek lyrics prove a timeless mix with wide appeal. Numerous professional productions are frequently taking place all over the world and with a history of high profile stars in the lead role the show has been enjoyed by many thousands of audiences. Originally written for performances by schools the rights for youth groups have only recently become available, and the energetic, ambitious team at Young Gen have been keen to grab the opportunity to perform this popular show.
Opening in front of a bare white cloth, the narrator is surrounded by the delightful chorus of CYGAMS' youngest members, performing the roles of enraptured, awestruck student onlookers with panache - oohing and ahhing to add a lovely richness to the iconic "Any Dream Will Do" and throughout the show. As the curtain opens to reveal the busy golden set we are transported to the biblical Middle East and the excitement and energy of the entire cast never drops through two hours of vibrant, fun-packed performances.
Jayden Booroff is perfectly cast in the title role with a natural, laid back stage presence. Handsome and relaxed he is a constant delight, performing the centrepiece songs with skill and flair. The energetic character number "Song of the King" is taken on by a consummate Chester Lawrence whose confidence and personality shine through as Pharaoh. James Bantock doubles up as both aged father Jacob and suave millionaire Potiphar, performing both parts with equal success.
This is inevitably a very male show, and the ensemble of eleven brothers are superb, surpassing expectations without exception. Brilliant together they master their involved and frequent choreography with charm and sing ideally as a unit, but there are also some sterling individual performances among the group; Ben Wilton as eldest brother Reuben gives a smooth, confident rendition of "One More Angel in Heaven" complete with country twang and a twinkle in his eye, Sam Wolstenholme sings the Benjamin Calypso as Judah with ability and some snake-hipped dance moves, and Jack Toland's Simeon leads the whole group in a fantastic scene for "Those Canaan Days". There is plenty for the girls to do too, with a well drilled female ensemble of wives and others doing complete justice to their many dance routines and remaining noticeably focussed and in character throughout the entire show.
Technically there is much to enjoy too - the lighting design is spectacular, the costume and make-up faultless including some miraculously executed quick changes, and the choreography by Jeremy Tustin, who also directs, is ambitious, well-rehearsed and enthusiastically achieved. The excellent band maintain a tireless energy throughout, never missing a beat in this sung-through score.
There is one performer however, among a cast of wonderful talents, who leads the show from the very first moments carrying its success on her steady, reliable shoulders. Kathryn Peacock as the Narrator (who shares the role through the week with Alice Masters) is a complete joy to watch, performing with maturity and professionalism beyond her years. Her beautiful vibrato soars out across the audience with astonishing control and power, and her clipped, schoolmarmish characterisation is perfectly pitched and strongly maintained. A performance to inspire the next generation of Young Genners who gaze up at her as the on-stage students, this was a show-stealing achievement by a committed and extremely accomplished young performer.
CYGAMS continue to achieve success after success with each show they undertake, and this much anticipated and entirely sold-out production does not disappoint. A fantastic, fun-packed evening deserving of their well-earned standing ovation.