Words by Simon Button
Even as a Sheridan Smith admirer, I have to say this new version of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is too much about her and not enough about Joseph.
Smith flits between filling us in on the story as the Narrator and bearding-up as Joseph’s dad Jacob or getting all lusty as Potiphar’s wife, then turning up in scenes where she has no logistical reason to be there except that the producers must have thought ‘We have Sheridan Smith so we must give her more to do’.
Sheridan is a terrific singer, a gifted comedian and - as anyone who saw her in Legally Blonde will know - a great dancer, and her return to the West End stage after 2016’s Funny Girl sees her on game-for-anything form.
But bigging-up her role in the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical is an unbalancing act where her mugging eventually becomes a bit tiresome.
Re-balancing, thank goodness, comes from Jac Yarrow as a star-in-the-making Joseph, fresh out of drama school and bringing a youthful exuberance to a high-energy production packed with one hummable tune after another.
On opening night Yarrow even got a mid-show standing ovation for his from-the-heart rendition of ‘Close Every Door’.
Having been Joseph himself in the early 90s, Jason Donovan taps into his inner-Elvis as the hip-swivelling Pharaoh, with tongue firmly in cheek even though his over-mumbling makes most of his lyrics unintelligible.
As a sung-through musical, it never stops. It’s two hours of terrific fun, with cartwheeling kids hilariously adopting facial hair to play some of Joseph’s brothers, huge Vegas-style sets and can-can dancers during ‘Those Canaan Days’ because, well, why not?
If you want subtlety, look elsewhere. If you’re not keen on Sheridan Smith, you won’t be keen on this version of Joseph. The audience I was in, though, absolutely loved her and if her constant focus-pulling shifts the focus of the show it’s still as bright and colourful as Joseph’s coat.
Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is at the London Palladium until September 8th.
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Images by Tristram Kenton