Joseph’s Dreamcoat is Sutton’s Musical Youth’s dream debut!
Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall
Tuesday 12 March 2019
By Features Writer Jono Oates
I’ve been to several Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre Company’s (SCMTC) productions in the last few years, both at the Lichfield Garrick and also at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall. But last night I saw the very first performance by the new kids on the block – the Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre.
The original company was founded in 1933 but they have decided to ensure that there is a succession of a new generation of performers by starting a youth company for youngsters aged under 16. The group was put together a mere six months ago and last night was their debut performance at the very grand and imposing Sutton Coldfield Town Hall.
I’m not sure whose decision it was to put on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as their opening production but it was an inspired choice. Joseph was the first musical to be performed publicly from the magical musical partnership of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, in 1968. It’s a fun-filled, wacky, colourful, bright, sparkly, comical musical that flows along at breakneck speed and has a host of sing-along-clap-along-toe-tapping-finger-snapping hits that will please audiences of all ages. It only has a handful of spoken lines and so is a true ‘musical’ with one number flowing straight in to the next so there are no awkward breaks or quieter moments, it rushes along and there is never a dull moment. It’s one of the shortest musicals so is ideal for musical theatre ‘first-timers’ or those who don’t like sitting still for too long!
The storyline is based on the biblical ‘coat of many colours’ of Joseph from the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament. Joseph’s multi-coloured coat was given to him by his father, Jacob, a gift that made his eleven brother’s very jealous. The brothers conspire to have Joseph sold as a slave and he is taken to Egypt. The brothers take Joseph’s blood-soaked coat to their father claiming he has been murdered, so that Jacob will not search for his son. In Egypt Joseph works as a slave for the wealthy Potiphar but when Potiphar’s glamorous wife makes eyes at young Joseph, Potiphar is outraged and throws him into prison. In prison a despondent Joseph meets two of the Pharaoh’s former workers and he interprets the strange dreams that they tell him about. When the Pharaoh has dreams that no one can interpret one of the workers, now released, tells him about Joseph’s ability to interpret any dream. When Joseph tells the Pharaoh that Egypt will suffer from seven years of famine he puts him in charge of the emergency arrangements to prepare for the famine and he becomes the leader’s second-in-command. When Joseph’s brothers suffer from the famine at their homeland, they travel to Egypt and beg for food and mercy, not recognising their brother in his new position of power. After punishing them Joseph reveals his true identity and he is reunited with his estranged father leading to the happy-ever-after conclusion.
The audience is guided through the story of Joseph and his coat by a narrator and in this production we have two narrators, with duties shared by Ellicia Smith and Juliet Fisher. They both have lovely clear singing voices and complement each other very well. Joseph, a part played on stage in the UK and US by, amongst others, Jason Donovan, Philip Schofield, Donny Osmond and David Cassidy is a very demanding role. Ben Hayfield is excellent, with a strong, but sensitive, singing voice and providing the right balance, displaying both the vulnerability of Joseph as he is imprisoned but also his strength of character as he becomes a powerful leader. Tom Lafferty as the pelvis-gyrating, lip-curling, shade-wearing Elvis Presley-lookalike Pharaoh is very funny and throws himself (or is pushed!) about the stage in convincing style. Joe Sutton is very commanding as the giant Potiphar and Jessica Dovey is suitably sultry as Potiphar’s infatuated wife. Jessica Neil and Eloise Wilson provide some funny comic touches as Butler and Baker, the two workers imprisoned with Joseph. The rest of the cast, representing Joseph’s brothers and their wives and the ensemble, provide fantastic support with energetic dancing routines and harmonising vocals.
The songbook is amazing, each song a work of genius. Ballads, pop, rock, calypso and anthems are all thrown into the mix, truly something for every musical taste. Funny, sharp, clever lyrics by Tim Rice and catchy, powerful, sympathetic, glamorous and smooth tunes from Lloyd-Webber make an irresistible combination, it is hard not to laugh, cry and cheer as you singalong with the cast. The stand out song is, of course, Any Dream Will Do, but some of the ensemble songs are also great fun, I really liked Jacob and Sons and Go, Go, Go Joseph.
This is a very young, inexperienced cast but this does not show in their performances. For their very first production, and opening night, they were spot-on, note-perfect, no missed lines and no missed cues, they were excellent from start to finish. It was clear that, despite not having worked together previously, they were very focused and were working together very much as a team, helping and supporting each other. Their enthusiasm and enjoyment in what they were doing was very evident and they were clearly having just as much fun on the stage as the audience were listening to their performances.
The production was directed by Paul Lumsden, a regular performer and director with the main Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre, and he has been a supporter of the youth company from the start of the project. In a short period of time Paul has moulded this young group into a very impressive company, with a mature, professional and accomplished performance that belies their age and experience – a great achievement.
The costumes, overseen by Rosie Lloyd Farmer, are dazzlingly bright and glamorous and there are cowboy hats, Parisienne fashions and white leather jump suits as well as Egyptian outfits on display, a quite bewildering number of costume changes and the cast look absolutely fabulous from head to toe.
The choreography by Jane Slosser, new to SCMTC, was fantastic, lots of lively movement and clever routines, all designed to blend in very well with the youthful, balletic, energy of the young cast. The music had to match the ever changing style and genre of the varied song book and another SCMTC newcomer, musical director Tony Orbell, managed this extremely well and the musical arrangements combined perfectly with the dance routines. The lighting reflected on the brightly coloured costumes and sets and there are some lovely props with sheep and camels wandering around the stage! The set changes were lightning quick and allowed the production to crack along at pace, a big well done to Stage Manager Glyn Adams and the stage crew who worked really hard to makes sure everything ran smoothly onstage.
At the end of Act Two there is a disco-mix reprise of all of the hits from the show, the cast spill out into the theatre on the walk-way and along the aisles so that the audience really feel part of the show and it a great way to end this feel-good musical.
Then – a piece of opening night magic. As the young cast took their bow the audience rose and gave them a long – very long – and very well deserved standing ovation. Some cast members clearly didn’t know what to do at this point, whether to bow again, wave or jump up and down, they just stood there looking a bit shocked! I suspect that this will not be the last standing ovation they receive, for this production, or any future performances and I’m sure they will get used to taking their bows from now on.
This is a fantastic production of a very well loved musical, with a dream songbook, a dream cast and a dream production. These kids from fame not only took hold of this production and knocked it out of the park – they smashed it way over the far side of Sutton Park. It’s a great production from a young and enthusiastic cast and I’d urge you to go and see them perform, I promise you won’t regret it. Last night I saw the future of the SCMTC…and the future is very, very bright.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, performed by the Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre, is on at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall until Saturday 16 March 2019 with performances at 7.30pm and a matinee at 2.30pm on Saturday. Ticket prices are £18 for adult, £15 for a child and can be purchased online at:
or ring the box office on 0121 296 9543.