THE HISTORY OF WEBBER'S JOSEPH - MEDIA THEATRE'S HOLIDAY MUSICAL

Thousands of theatergoers have enjoyed Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which is the worldwide hit based on the biblical tale of the Coat of Many Colors story from the Old Testament. The energetic and fun show plays at The Media Theatre November 20 through January 5 starring Emmy nominated actor Kyle Lowder (pictured) of “Days of Our Lives” and “Bold and the Beautiful”. 

Many people know several of the famous songs from the show including “Close Every Door” and “Any Dream Will Do”. Audiences also enjoy the role of the Pharoah, a comic highlight of the production in which an Elvis-style performance is given.

However, within the amount of nostalgia, familiarity and just plain old comfort which audiences have with the musical, there are tidbits of information which most who get a kick out of hearing “Benjamin’s Calypso” are unaware of.

For instance, even though Andrew Lloyd Webber achieved international fame with his take on another Biblically inspired –and, at the time, somewhat controversial—musical  Jesus Christ Superstar, he actually wrote Joseph first.

When Webber was 17 he received a note from a young law student who had heard of the composer’s talents: “Dearest Andrew, I’ve been told you’re looking for a ‘with it’ writer of lyrics for your songs, and as I have been writing songs for a while and particularly enjoy writing lyrics I wonder if you would consider it worth your while meeting me. Signed, Tim Rice” Thus, the collaborative efforts of Rice and Webber started. Rather simply, one might add, until the partnership created several of the most well known and popular musicals of all time.

The two met in 1965 and started working on a show (The Likes of Us) which has never been performed. Rice was really into working on ‘pop’ songs, but Webber wanted to pursue his vision of creating musical theatre. After a few heated discussions, the two were commissioned by the head of music at Colt Court, a preparatory school in London, to create a themed ‘religious’ concert. Webber and Rice put their heads together and came up with a 15 minute ‘pop cantata’ based on the story of Joseph and his brothers from the book of Genesis.

The cantata debuted in 1968, becoming a huge success, and was repeated several times that year, getting bigger and longer with each subsequent performance.  In the vein of the old phrase “You never know who is watching your show”, an executive from Decca happened upon the beginnings of Joseph and an album was cut in ’69. 

Of course, due to the success of a little school-commissioned cantata the partnership of Webber and Rice went on to create their next Bible hit, Jesus Christ Superstar. Due to its more controversial nature, and an album which preceded its stage presentation, Superstar took the world by storm as a musical adventure which was also a conversation piece during the hippie infused early ‘70’s.

So let’s get back to the history of Joseph, as we go full circle from its slight beginnings to a full-fledged production. Ironically, Jesus Christ Superstar found fame due to the little show Webber and Rice first premiered as a school project…but Joseph’s fame would not exist today without Superstar hitting number one with a bullet on the Billboard charts. The two, you see, would not exist without each other. (On another ironic note, in the USA Joseph was initially advertised as a ‘follow up’ to Superstar, even though this was a complete fallacy created by a marketing team.)

As Superstar was an immediate success, Joseph would undergo several transformations prior to finally being produced on London’s West End in ’73. The mind-bogglingly entertaining musical was, contrary to the belief of many younger generation theatre lovers, not produced on Broadway until 1982. Several revivals followed, but a large part of the show’s popularity might also be attributed to the popular performer Donny Osmond. He filmed a straight-to-video version in ’99 and once again Joseph found new life.

One could also congratulate Webber’s father, William, for Joseph’s life. Upon hearing the original 15 minute version, he felt so strongly about it that he pushed for a second performance at his own church, Westminster Central Hall. So from its conception, its birth, and its eventual maturity into the just over 90 minute production audiences are now familiar with (that does not include intermission or the big Mega-Mix medley which takes place after final bows in some productions including Media’s) Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has had quite a history. It even spawned Jesus Christ Superstar, and two of the biggest names in the music theatre pantheon: Webber and Rice.

To see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Media Theatre starring Kyle Lowder, directed by Jesse Cline, and produced by Media Music Theatre Company, visit mediatheatre.org for tickets or call 610-891-0100. Go Go Go Joseph!






Comments

Popular posts from this blog

MEDIA THEATRE ANNOUNCES CAST FOR 'A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL'

THE MEDIA THEATRE HAS 'WEST SIDE STORY' APRIL 19-JUNE 11

MEDIA THEATRE HAS 'BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY' MUSICAL SEPT. 14-OCT. 23