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Review: Bill Kenwright's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, at the Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone

ByMolly Mileham-Chappell

Let's face it - it's a school production staple. So just how different can each version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat be?

Very, as it happens.

And the latest edition under Bill Kenwright's direction, currently touring the UK, is certainly one of the better ones to have graced the British theatre scene in recent years.

Jaymi Hensley as Joseph in the new 2019 tour (7620707)
Jaymi Hensley as Joseph in the new 2019 tour (7620707)

Currently on at the Leas Cliff Hall - the only Kent date on the new 2019 tour - a packed audience of all ages in Folkestone jumped to their feet at the end of the night.

The story is Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's first classic - telling the biblical story of Joseph the dreamer, who is destined to achieve great things, and his eleven jealous brothers, who feel inferior because of their father's preferential treatment of his favourite son.

Taking on the monumental role of Joseph this time is Jaymi Hensley of X Factor fame in the boyband Union J.

Hensley is a phenomenally strong lead, and it is hard to believe it is his first major musical gig. With luscious vocal chords and looks, it's hard not to like him.

One of the most challenging elements of playing Joseph, which is so often never achieved, is bringing something new to the role. But Hensley knocks it out the park, and I thoroughly enjoyed his smug and entitled attitude towards his brothers at the beginning, which mellowed towards the end. It demonstrated true character progression.

Trina Hill as the Narrator in the new 2019 tour (7620709)
Trina Hill as the Narrator in the new 2019 tour (7620709)

His rendition of Any Dream Will Do to open the show gave me goosebumps, while his gut-wrenching belter of Close Every Door sent shivers down my spine.

He certainly has a long career ahead of him in musical theatre, having trained at the BRIT School, and I expect his name will join the long list of actors in the history books who have donned the coat of many colours, including Jason Donovan, Phillip Schofield and Lee Mead.

The success of a Joseph performance is usually underpinned by a strong Narrator, and Trina Hill certainly didn't disappoint. Her soft nature and graceful stage presence was a joy to watch.

But it could be said that the real stars of the show were the actors playing Joseph's eleven brothers. The tight-knit group served up a decent helping of impeccable comic timing, which had both the four-year-old and 60-year-old behind me in stitches.

Additionally, the snappy new choreography was a real treat, and consequently gave the brothers a more vibrant role in the storytelling. The dance abilities of Alex Hetherington as Benjamin were particularly stand-out.

The set also appeared different, but better - stripped back to the classic steps for the children's chorus, a glittering platform and tasteful palm trees in the wings, it worked really well within the space.

The new production stars the Union J popstar in the title role (7620696)
The new production stars the Union J popstar in the title role (7620696)

While most reviews discount the venue, it is important to note that Joseph is the Leas Cliff Hall's first major touring professional musical to be performed there.

If last night proved anything, it was that the Leas is absolutely capable of hosting similar productions in the future.

As a former 20th century music hall, it could have easily confined the space the cast members and technicians had to work with. But the challenge was met, and the clever stage and auditorium design effortlessly filled the hall to create an authentic looking West End stage.

Could this mark the beginning of many more professional musicals to make their way to the coastal venue? I hope so.

Andrew Geater (Pharoah) and the cast of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - UK Tour. Credit: Pamela Raith Photography (7620701)
Andrew Geater (Pharoah) and the cast of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - UK Tour. Credit: Pamela Raith Photography (7620701)

The show itself is still in need of a few tweaks in the actors' movements, to refine the fluidity of piece, but this likely to be due to the relative infancy of the run and I expect this will be ironed out in due course.

But above all else, having seen various versions of the show over the years, it was the most fun I have ever had in the Joseph Megamix finale. My dad was almost dancing in the aisle.

May I return? (To the beginning... Ah-ah-ahhh...)

Details

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is at the Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone from Tuesday, March 5 to Saturday, March 9.

To book tickets visit atgtickets.com


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