London Palladium – until 5 September 2021
In a show already suffused with nostalgia for so many, the return of Linzi Hateley to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a warm hug of perfect decision making. It is a production that has already indulged a little in bringing back Jason Donovan – who played Joseph 30 years ago lest we forget – in the role of Pharoah, but Hateley is returning as the Narrator, the part that she originated (and for which she was Olivier nominated) and immortalised in the cast recording, meaning that this is literally the sound of my childhood coming to life.
For all my misgivings with Lord Lloyd Webber’s voting record and inter-relationship with the theatre ecology as a whole, Joseph is a show for which I have a huge fondness. From family trips to see it way back when, to singing in primary school productions, accompanying secondary school productions on the piano, to adding percussion to local drama group productions, plus catching it when it has perennially re-emerged on stages, its familiarity is the kind of smile-inducing, toe-tapping comfort that has been biting my tongue not to sing along every time I go.
And even without Hateley’s return, this is a production that is hugely alive to that warmth. Shrinking the cast down used to be a sign of wafer-thin budgets (I swear I’ve seen productions where actors played more than one brother) but here, Laurence Connor’s production makes a virtue of it. The kids chorus are put to full use, covering many of the minor roles hilariously and consequently stealing many a scene (brava to the goat!). And the Narrator also pulls multi-roling duty as she slips into a key supporting part or two at the drop of a beard or leopard-skin rug. It always feels like an ensemble having a fun time of it and no one seemed to be having more fun than MD John Rigby (I could have watched him all show).
I loved Sheridan Smith’s rampant enthusiasm last time around and if Hateley doesn’t quite exude quite as much energy (I’m not sure who could), there was something extraordinary about seeing her slip into these shoes again. The delight on her face was palpable throughout, the chemistry with the cast electric (Jac Yarrow impressing once again in the title role) and her performance matching up to expectation. A hoedown and a little tap routine here, some camel-riding there, well-earned ad-libs sprinkled throughout and the creamy smoothness of that gorgeous voice winding back the clock 30 years.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is booking at the London Palladium until 5 September 2021. Linzi Hateley performs at select dates and you should look for them now.