Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Wow, that’s a mouthful; I typically refer to it as simply Joseph. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s first big musical, based on the Bible story of Joseph from Genesis. It originated as a much shorter production for a school performance and is still widely performed by schools in the U.K. and that is how it is framed in the film. Donny Osmond leads as Joseph (he has already been performing the role on stage for several years). The teachers were also the main characters, including the headmaster (I believe) who was also Jacob, played by Richard Attenborough (Jurassic Park, and 1994’s Miracle on 34th Street). If Pharaoh looks a bit familiar, he’s played by Robert Torti, the father in Suite Life of Zack and Cody. So the students file into the auditorium and their presenter arrives, introducing the story as a “dreamer like you,” encouraging “you are what you feel.” Donny enters, explaining Any Dream Will Do and the students even join in. The narrator hands him his coat and the story begins in earnest. Jacob and Sons are the beginning of the nation of Israel; Jacob has twelve sons (the original twelve tribes), ranging from Rueben to Benjamin; the last being Joseph, “Jacob’s favorite son,” being the son of his favorite wife [Biblically, Benjamin was also that wife’s son and younger than Joseph].
Joseph’s brothers were not pleased with his status as their father’s favorite and hurt when their father treated Joseph to an amazing multi-colored coat. Kids stream on stage to help count off the colors, their uniforms changing to fun colored play clothes. Joseph’s Dreams have got his brothers’ goat; guileless dreams where their eleven ears of corn all turn and bow to his. Or eleven stars in the heavens bow to his. They declare “the dreamer’s got to go.” The show also mixes song styles, so Poor, Poor Joseph starts a bit like a rap, with the brothers planning to throw Joseph into a pit and steal his coat. Then, some “hairy Ishmaelites,” come riding by and they sell their brother as a slave, “off to Egypt/ where Joseph was not keen to go.” The brothers then tore the coat, attacked a passing goat, and dipped the coat in “blood and guts and gore.” With Joseph gone, the brothers give the news to their father, there’s One More Angel in Heaven, in a Western theme. There’s even a hoedown dance break. Jacob is crushed; the brothers and their wives are pleased.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, Joseph was bought by a man named Potiphar. Joseph came to like his job and “liked his master/ consequently worked much harder/ even with devotion.” Potiphar made him leader of his household, “maximum promotion.” Potiphar’s wife, beautiful but evil, and sought a lot of men against their will. She liked Joseph as eye candy and “every morning beckoned/ ‘Come and lie with me, love!'” Joseph refused, but Potiphar’s wife had her way, instructing her other companions to take off Joseph’s shirt. Potiphar investigated the rumpus and found a compromising situation. He throws Joseph in jail. He muses in his cell, Close Every Door to Me [one of my favorite songs from the show]; but he’s still hopeful, “for we [children of Israel] know we shall find/ our own piece of mind/ for we have been promised/ a land of our own.” A while later, he is joined by two other prisoners, a butler and baker from the Pharaoh. They have had dreams they don’t understand and ask Joseph for help interpreting The butler crushed grapes to wine, gave the cup to Pharaoh, who drank. This means he will soon be free. The baker on the other hand, had birds who ate all his bread. Sadly, that means his execution date is set. The rest of the prisoners cheer him on, Go, Go, Go Joseph, emerging in colorful sixties’ clothes [this is my favorite part].
“Strange as it seems/ there’s been a run/ of crazy dreams,” including the Pharaoh. Poor, Poor Pharaoh, whatchu gonna do? His butler recommends Joseph. The Pharaoh explains (a take-off on Elvis) about the Seven Fat Cows who are eaten by seven skinny cows. There are also seven full ears of corn that are consumed by seven skinny ones. He’s all shook up and asks Joseph for his answer. Joseph explains that the dreams foretell seven years of bumper crops, followed by seven years of famine. And what Pharaoh needs is someone to be in charge. Well Stone the Crows! Pharaoh frees Joseph and appoints him, though he has to periodically tear him away from the fangirls.
But what has happened to the family Joseph left behind? Those Canaan Days full of plenty are gone, now they’re starving (they did not ration like Egypt). Simeon adopts a French accent for the song and encourages to “raise you berets.” Desperate, the brothers decide to go to Egypt for food. And discover Joseph! Except “not a brother among them/ knew who he was” and Grovel, Grovel to Pharaoh’s Number Two, proving Joseph’s dreams from years ago correct. Joseph plays with them for a minute, disbelieving their tale and they beg. He eventually gives them food, but when they go to leave, he stops them. For he hid his golden cup in Benjamin’s sack and all the brothers wonder Who’s the Thief? When Benjamin is arrested, “each of the brothers/ fell to his knees/ ‘Show him some mercy/ oh mighty one, please/ He would not do this/ he must have been framed/ Jail us and beat us/ we should be blamed’.” They further plead their case with Benjamin Calypso, arguing that “Benjamin is straighter than the tall palm tree” and “honest as coconuts.” Joseph knew that his brothers had learned their lesson and reveals himself. “So Jacob came to Egypt/ no longer feeling old/ and Joseph came to meet him/ in his chariot of gold.” Joseph reprises Any Dream Will Do and the cast joins on Give Me My Coloured Coat. The soundtrack includes the Joseph Remix.
I know some adults find this show cheesy; I think it’s good family fun. I know practically all of the words and think it would be fun to be the Narrator (except I knew I would never get it in our local theatre production). I do happily recall days dancing around the living room when I was little to this soundtrack, making up my own dances.
Up Next: Cats