REVIEW: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sunderland Empire, until Saturday
X Factor winner Joe McElderry and Britain's Got Talent runner-up Lucy Kay showed their true colours at the Sunderland Empire last night.
They both proved to be fantastic singers as they combined magically to reinvigorate a classic musical.
South Shields-born Joe nearly brought the house down with a moving rendition of Close Every Door. His powerful voice and smooth tone brought a few members of the audience to their feet after that one number. It was incredible. His stage presence and obvious enthusiasm throughout was magnetic and infectious.
Equally impressive was Lucy, whose range of styles, from operatic to rock to gentle ballad, gave the role of Narrator a whole new dimension. After that, I am going straight out to buy her classical album, Fantasia. In fact, a collection of Joe and Lucy duets would go down a storm.
They were perfectly matched, complementing each other like the colours of the rainbow that adorned Joseph's jacket! Surely, the roles of Joseph and the Narrator have never been as strong in all of its 46-year history since the first stage show in 1970.
In all of the different musicals I've seen over the years, the combination of Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in Phantom of the Opera would be a fair comparison.
Joseph started life as a 15-minute choral composition for a London school in 1968. After Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice found success with Jesus Christ Superstar, they returned to try their luck with the Biblical story of Joseph taken from the Book of Genesis.
The pair hit on a formula that was often repeated throughout their illustrious careers - telling a story through parodies of different styles of music, in this case, pop, Gospel, rock 'n' roll, '20s Charleston, country and western, calypso, French ballad and jazz.
The plot begins with Jacob and his 12 sons. Joseph's brothers are jealous of their father's preference for him and his coat of many colours, so they sell him as a slave and he is carted off to Egypt, where he gets in a tangle with Egyptian millionaire Potiphar's wife and is thrown in jail. But his ability to interpret dreams and predict an impending famine wins him freedom and riches. He meets his impoverished brothers again and sets them a trap, which they ultimately pass.
The production has stood the test of time, with modifications along the way. Gloriously lavish sets and moments of pure humour (the singing camel and blow-up sheep spring to mind) kept the audience gripped. The rapid-fire change of lighting to match the colours in the song Joseph's Coat (It was red and yellow and green and brown, And scarlet and black and ocher and peach, etc) was spellbinding and very impressive. Quite simply, spectacular!
And while the two lead stars stole the show, there was a strong cast to back them up and provide sparkling cameos throughout. Emilianos Stamatakis as the Elvis-impersonating Pharaoh; Lewis Asquith as a deliciously camp butler; Boris Alexander as the Pharaoh's doomed baker; and dancing queen Tilly Ford as the vampish Mrs Potiphar all played their part in making it a dazzling evening to remember.
The ever-present children from the local Northern Star Theatre Arts impressively stuck to their guns, adding tuneful backing, and enjoyed their own moment in the spotlight to open the second half.
By the end of the show, the whole auditorium was up, dancing, clapping, singing along and cheering during a protracted reprise of all the big numbers. And that was on the first night - heaven knows what will happen by the end of the run on Saturday!
• Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues at Sunderland Empire from today (June 1) to Saturday (June 4). There are two shows today (2.30pm and 7.30pm), tomorrow (2.30pm and 7.30pm), and Friday (5pm and 8pm), and three shows on Saturday (2pm, 5pm and 8pm). Tickets, priced from Â£17.40, are available online or by calling 0844 871 3022.