You don’t get musicals much better known that those by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. So it was no surprise that on the opening night of this show at the New Wimbledon Theatre, there were few empty seats to be seen. Indeed, Wimbledon has had a long and remarkably successful run of musicals, and not all as famous as this one. Last week’s show, Curtains, was one I had never heard of, yet it was one of the best. How did this more famous one match up?
Well, unlike Jesus Christ Superstar, the theme is light-hearted throughout. We know that Joseph is not going to come to any real harm. Or we ought to know. But it cannot be assumed any longer that people will be familiar with the Bible in general, and with the Book of Genesis in particular. There is very little dialogue in Dreamcoat, so the story must be conveyed in the words of the actors’ songs, helped along by the Narrator, who is also singing. My main grouse is that, certainly on the night I was there, the volume of sound from the band was cranked up so loud that the words were often drowned out. So it was hard to follow, for example, what was going on between Joseph, Potiphar and Potiphar’s wife (I think there was a suspicion of hanky-panky).
But the audience didn’t seem to mind. Their applause was uproarious, and they gave the cast a standing ovation at the end. Indeed, the story may not have mattered very much, for the outstanding parts of the show were three set pieces which had nothing to do with Ancient Egypt or the Land of Canaan. The first was a brilliant pastiche of Elvis in his Las Vegas attire, with authentic gyrations and Showaddywaddy-style backing vocals. The second was a pastiche of French chansons, as caricatured by the English, complete with accordion, beret, striped jersey and a string of onions. The third was a pastiche of Caribbean calypso, with tropical costumes to match. These spoofs really demonstrated Lloyd Webber’s versatility as a composer, as well as being absolutely hilarious.
It almost goes without saying that the choreography and the singing (when it rose above the band) were of the high standard we expect of a show at Wimbledon. Dreamcoat is not a classic musical, but the way it has been staged here is a lot of fun, and when Joseph asked the audience at the end, “Have you enjoyed yourselves?”, there was no mistaking the answer!
- Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
- Choreographed by Henry Metcalfe & Gary Lloyd
- Directed by Bill Kenwright
- Lyrics by Tim Rice
- Photo credit Pamela Raith
- Starring Mark McMullan, Alexandra Doar & Henry Lawes
- The New Wimbledon Theatre, London
- Until Saturday 25th January 2020
- Time : 7.30 p.m. (running time : 2 hours, plus 20-minute interval)