Monday, June 06, 2005


JC has always been a tad masochistic, which would explain his devotion to amateur musical theatre. He practices hard, works long hours, and doesn't get paid, all so that he can sit in a smelly orchestra pit and not see what's going on up on stage.

For the last couple of weeks he's been playing bass for 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat'. He'd suggested that I try to catch one of the performances, and I eventually remembered that I'd promised to do that on the afternoon of the final evening show. I rang him to get specifics.

JC: Okay, it's at the Regal in Subiaco, it starts at 8 o'clock, and the tickets are $38.

Me: Crikey! $38 for amateur musical theatre?

JC: Well the Regal isn't cheap.

Me: No, I guess it isn't. I'll see you at the theatre then.

JC: (as idea occurs to him) Or I suppose I could see if I could get you a comp.


Me: It'd be nice if you could.

So off he went to check with the publicity manager, and sure enough he could have a free ticket waiting for me at the box office. Occasionally being completely disorganised and leaving everything until the last minute has its advantages.

'Joseph' and I have a history. We were born in the same year, and my parents had the original cast recording on vinyl... it was probably the closest they ever came to the counter culture. I used to listen to it ad nauseum on their refrigerator-sized radiogram, partly because it was a great story with very catchy tunes, and partly because everything else in their record collection was bloody awful 70s country. It's easy to sneer at Andrew Lloyd Webber for his glib and bouncy melodies, but if you consider that 'Joseph' was originally written as a 'pop cantata' for schoolchildren, it's all a lot more forgivable. Indeed, compared to the trash we throw at children today, it's positively sophisticated.

Part of the fun of this musical is the wide variety of styles and genres being ripped off to tell a Bible story. There's a maudlin French torch song, a calypso number, a cha-cha, a 'Chicago'-style 1930s cabaret number, as well as a hilarious Pharaoh-as-Elvis song which lifts the second act out of the doldrums like a shot of adrenalin. This particular production got in on the humor by accompanying the French torch song with a sexy lady dancer, complete with the ubiquitous black bentwood upon which to pose, and by dressing the scene in Potiphar's house (the 1930s cabaret number) in full black and white art deco, complete with ditsy chorus girls in silver wigs. They even finished Pharaoh's blue and gold outfit with a pair of blue suede shoes.

Otherwise, the show was... well, adequate. The sound mixing was terrible, such that a lot of the wit in the lyrics was lost in the swell of the music. And when Joseph had his coat torn off, revealing his lily-white chest, the audience was momentarily blinded by the reflected spotlight. It's nice that he put in a bit of time at the gym honing his abs before the show, but dude, would it kill you to spend half an hour under a sunlamp as well?

However, unreserved praise can go to The Narrator, who not only sang with a beautifully pure voice all up and down the register, but also threw herself whole-heartedly into the proceedings and never once seemed to be having anything less than a whale of a time. You can forgive pretty much anything in the face of unreserved enthusiasm.


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