Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Poetry & Opera

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
1991 Broadway production poster
Music Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics Tim Rice
Based upon Genesis
Productions 1968 Children's oratorio production

1972 Original theatrical production (Edinburgh)
1976 Dublin production
1982 Broadway production
1991 West End production
1993 Broadway revival
1993 Canadian production
1993 Los Angeles prodcution
2007 West End revival

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was the second musical theatre show written by the team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. (The first was " The Likes of Us," a musical written in 1965, which only received its first stage performance in 2005)

Based on the " Coat of many colors" story of Joseph from the Bible, this light-hearted show was first presented as a fifteen-minute pop cantata at the Colet Court school in London on March 1, 1968. The piece was commissioned by Alan Doggett, head of the school's Music department, for their annual spring concert. Doggett conducted the performance, whose orchestra and the singers consisted of pupils of Colet Court. The production did not have a huge impact when it premiered at the Colet School, but Lloyd Webber's father, William, felt it had the seeds of greatness. He encouraged and arranged for a second performance to take place at his church, Westminster Central Hall, with a revised and expanded format, including a rock group. The boys of Colet School and St. Paul's Junior School sang at the second performance, conducted by Doggett on 12 May 1968. This performance received 'amazing' reviews as a new pop oratorio in London's prestigious Sunday Times. Following the second performance, Novello agreed to publish the work and it was also to be recorded by Decca Records. The third performance took place at St Paul's Cathedral on 9 November 1968. By then it had been expanded to 35 minutes and included several new songs.

In 1970, Lloyd Webber and Rice used the popularity of their second rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, to promote Joseph, which was falsely advertised in America as a sequel to Superstar. The plan of riding on Jesus’ coattails for this ‘technicolor coat’ proved profitable: the Decca recording remained at the top of America’s charts for three months.

In September 1972 Joseph was presented at the Edinburgh Festival, directed by Frank Dunlop and starring Gary Bond. A month later the production played at the Young Vic and the Roundhouse theatres. Success continued to transfer Joseph to bigger theatres and wider audiences. It was finally produced on Broadway on January 27, 1982 at the Royale Theatre where it remained for 749 performances.

Credited to its family friendly storyline, universal themes, and catchy music Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is one of the most dependably profitable titles in musical theatre history, particularly when producers feature a headlining star. It is often successfully mounted by amateur groups, and according to the Really Useful Group, it has been mounted by over 20,000 local schools and amateur theatres.

Following the success of the BBC's and Lloyd Webber's Interactive reality television talent show How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? which documented the search for a person to play Maria von Trapp in his 2006 production of The Sound of Music, BBC One controller Peter Fincham has announced the production of a new series which will search for the main cast of a new production of "Joseph". The show is called Any Dream Will Do, after the song of the same name and features Lloyd Webber and Graham Norton during prime time Saturday evening television.


The story is based on the Biblical story of Joseph, found in the book of Genesis. It is set in a frame in which a narrator is telling a story to children, encouraging them to dream. She then tells the story of Joseph, another dreamer ("Prologue," "Any Dream Will Do"). In the beginning of the main story Jacob and his 12 sons are introduced ("Jacob and Sons"). The brothers are jealous of Joseph for his beautiful coat, which is a symbol of their father's preference of him ("Joseph's Coat"). Moreover, Joseph has dreams which makes it very clear that he is destined to rule over them ("Joseph's Dreams"). To get rid of him and make the dreams not come true, they sell him as a slave to some passing Ishmaelites ("Poor, Poor Joseph"), who in turn bring him to Egypt.

Back home, Reuben and the other brothers, accompanied by their wives, break the news to Jacob that Joseph has been killed; they show his tattered coat smeared with his blood (really goat's blood) to their father as proof that what they say is true ("One More Angel in Heaven"). In most productions, the brother Levi usually sings the solo; the song often segues into a celebratory hoedown after the bereft Jacob has tottered off the stage.

In Egypt, Joseph is the slave of Potiphar, an Egyptian millionaire. Joseph rises through the ranks of slaves and servants until he is running Potiphar's house. However, Potiphar's wife advances on Joseph, who spurns her. Potiphar hears them and barges in, seeing the two together. He throws Joseph in jail as punishment ("Potiphar"). Joseph has hit rock bottom ("Close Every Door"), but soon gets a chance to bounce back when two more prisoners are added to his cell. Both are former servants of the Pharaoh, and both have had bizarre dreams recently. Joseph interprets that one, the Baker, will be executed, while the other, the Butler, will be returned to service ("Go, Go, Go Joseph").

Though no intermission is specified by Webber and Rice, productions who wish to add one often do so at this time. The story then moves back to the frame, and the Narrator talks about the impending change in Joseph's fortunes ("A Pharaoh Story") because the Pharaoh is having dreams that no one can interpret. The now-freed Butler tells Pharaoh (played by an Elvis Presley impersonator) of Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams ("Poor, Poor Pharaoh"). Joseph is brought to Pharaoh and the king tells Joseph his dream involving seven fat cows, seven skinny cows, seven healthy ears of corn, and seven dead ears of corn ("Song of the King"). Joseph then interprets the dream as seven plentiful years being followed by seven years of famine ("Pharaoh's Dreams Explained"). Pharaoh, astonished by the interpretation, puts Joseph in charge of carrying out the preparations needed to endure the impending famine, and Joseph becomes the most powerful man in Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh ("Stone the Crows").

Back home, though, the brothers are caught in the midst of the famine and express regret at selling Joseph and deceiving their father, led by the brother Simeon ("Those Canaan Days"). Hearing that Egypt has food, they decide to go and beg there for food and mercy, not realizing who it is they will be dealing with ("The Brothers Come to Egypt"). Joseph gives them food and sends them on their way, but plants a golden cup into the sack of his brother Benjamin ("Grovel, Grovel"). When the brothers try to leave, Joseph stops them, asking about the "stolen cup." Each brother empties his sack, and it is revealed that Benjamin has the cup. Joseph then accuses Benjamin of robbery ("Who's the Thief?"). The other brothers, though, beg for mercy for Benjamin, imploring that Joseph take them as a prisoner and set Benjamin free ("Benjamin Calypso").

Joseph, seeing their unselfishness and penitence, reveals himself ("Joseph All the Time") and sends for his father Jacob. The two are reunited ("Jacob in Egypt") for a happy ending. The show ends with two reprises ("Finale: Any Dream Will Do/Give Me My Colored Coat"), and, in some productions, a rock/disco medley of most of the musical's major numbers ("Joseph Megamix").


The story is completely sung through and there is no spoken dialogue in the entire script. Without an intermission, the entire show runs about ninety minutes.

Although based on the Bible, the story does not come off as religious in any way. God is never mentioned, the tone is almost always kept up as playful and light, and the show features a number of pastiches of musical style ("Those Canaan Days" is often sung with faux French accents; "There's One More Angel in Heaven" is a pseudo- country-Western, and Pharoah's Elvis routine is sometimes sung twice in a row due to its popularity).

Musical Numbers

The songs in the show are:

  • Prologue
  • Any Dream Will Do
  • Jacob and Sons
  • Joseph's Coat
  • Joseph's Dreams
  • Poor, Poor Joseph
  • One More Angel in Heaven
  • Potiphar
  • Close Every Door
  • Go, Go, Go Joseph
  • A Pharaoh's Story
  • Poor, Poor Pharaoh
  • Song of the King (Seven Fat Cows)
  • Pharaoh's Dreams Explained
  • Stone the Crows
  • Those Canaan Days
  • The Brothers Come To Egypt
  • Grovel, Grovel
  • Who's the Thief?
  • Benjamin Calypso
  • Joseph All the Time
  • Jacob in Egypt
  • Finale: Any Dream Will Do / Give Me My Coloured Coat

Notable in the composition of the music is the variety of styles used by Lloyd Webber, including parodies of French ballads ("Those Canaan Days"), Elvis-inspired rock and roll ("Song of the King"), western ("One More Angel In Heaven"), 1920's ragtime ("Potiphar"), Caribbean style ("Benjamin Calypso") and disco ("Go, Go, Go Joseph").

On many occasions throughout the show, melodies are re-used with different words. For example, the songs "Poor, Poor Joseph" and "Poor, Poor Pharaoh" have just minor lyrical changes, whilst "Prologue" shares the same music as "A Pharoah's Story".

"Prologue" is a late addition to the show, not included in any recordings produced before the 1981 Broadway production starring Laurie Beechman and Bill Hutton; the use of "Any Dream Will Do" at the start of the show (and the renaming of the closing version as per the above list) dates from the 1991 revival.

Some productions, including the UK Touring Production circa 1983-1987 (produced by Bill Kenwright), included an additional song "I Don't Think I'm Wanted Back At Home" was included. Sung by the title character, the brothers jokingly throw Joseph out of the family home, throwing a number of props at the lone Joseph who is seen in a spotlight - first a suitcase, then a cane and top hat, leaving our hero to tapdance his way to the end of the number.

In the song "Joseph's Coat" the lyrics claim his coat to be " red, and yellow, and green, and brown, and scarlet, and black, and ochre, and peach, and ruby, and olive, and violet, and fawn, and lilac, and gold, and chocolate, and mauve, and cream, and crimson, and silver, and rose, and azure, and lemon, and russet, and grey, and purple, and white, and pink, and orange, and blue!"

2007 London Revival

From July 17th, a new production of Joseph will open at the Adelphi Theatre, replacing Andrew Lloyd Webber's 2006 revival of Evita, starring Elena Roger, Matt Rawle, Phillip Quast and Abbie Osman, after a 12 month run. The role of Joseph will be cast through the BBC 1 programme 'Any Dream Will Do', using the same format as the 2006 'How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria' that chose Connie Fisher to star in Andrew Lloyd Webber's revival of The Sound of Music. Further casting has not yet been announced for Joseph. Go to the official website, , for more information.


1969 - The Joseph Consortium

This earliest recording (released on the Decca label, catalogue number SKL 4973) of Joseph followed the earliest performances at Colet Court and the Westminster Central Hall. As the show was still in its earliest stages of being written (and the now-recognised running order would not be finalised until the 1991 London revival), this recording is noticeably shorter than subsequent recordings and performances. Songs such as "Jacob and Sons" and "Song of the King" lack verses, while songs such as "One More Angel in Heaven", "A Pharaoh Story", and "Benjamin Calypso" are absent entirely. Indeed, the sleeve notes to this recording (by Derek Jewell, then Jazz and Pop Critic of the Sunday Times) provide an insight into the creation of the show, pointing out that "Potiphar" and "Song of the King" are new additions for this recording. Also of note is that side 1 of the record ends with "Close Every Door" (future vinyl and cassette releases would end side 1 with "Go, Go, Go Joseph", where act 1 of theatrical performances usually ends).

The performance is credited to The Joseph Consortium, which is the same group of people who performed the show at Colet Court and Westminster Central Hall. David Daltrey (front man of British psychedlic band Tales of Justine) played the role of Joseph (although not specifically credited with any role apart from "vocals" on the sleeve), and also played lead guitar. Support came from a band going by the name of The Mixed Bag (consisting of Terry Saunders - vocals and rhythm guitar; Malcolm Parry - vocals and bass guitar; John Cook - vocals and organ; and Bryan Watson - vocals and drums), with an unnamed orchestra conducted by Alan Doggett, and The Colet Court Choir. William Lloyd Webber (Andrew's father) played Hammond Organ, while Tim Rice played the part of Pharaoh.

1976 Dublin

A version of this show was produced in Ireland in 1976 (Noel Pearson was producer, Alan Simpson was director), with a cast recording LP resulting. Joseph was played by Tony Kenny, and Noel Purcell played Jacob.

1991 London

This musical was revived in London by Steven Pimlott, and a full cast soundtrack recording was released, entitled “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of…" This is the first recording to be released with the full track listing as described above. This release also includes the "Joseph Megamix", a nine-minute medley of themes arranged with a heavy dance beat.

At the start of this run, Joseph was played by the then-popular music singer and pin-up Jason Donovan, who features on this release. His recording of Any Dream Will Do reached number one in the UK singles charts in 1991. Later in the run, Donovan was replaced by TV presenter Phillip Schofield, who released a single of Close Every Door.

The orchestral credits, cover art, and running time of this release is almost exactly the same as the subsequent releases starring Donny Osmond and Michael Damian. The various casts recorded their vocals over the same prerecorded backing tracks - the difference between these recordings being the singers and the narrator.

1992 Canada

The white cover is the 1992 Canadian revival recording with Donny Osmond in the title role, Joseph, and Janet Metz as the narrator. Osmond was also chosen for the 1999 direct-to-video production.

1993 Los Angeles

The black cover is the 1993 Los Angeles revival recording staring Michael Damian as Joseph.


It has also been made into video and DVD in 1999, starring Donny Osmond as Joseph, Maria Friedman as the narrator, Joan Collins as Potiphar's Wife, and Richard Attenborough as Jacob.

2005 Touring Cast

Patrick Cassidy and Amy Adams as Joseph and the Narrator from the 2005-2006 national tour, presented by Troika Entertainment.

In popular culture

  • In The Simpsons episode " We're on the Road to D'ohwhere" (Episode HABF04) the devoutly Christian Ned Flanders is heard singing the ending of "Coat of Many Colors" when he finds his record of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in Marge's yard sale.
  • In the Seinfeld episode " The Wig Master," Kramer is seen wearing this coat, which he borrowed from the Broadway production's wig master.
  • The Reduced Shakespeare Company has been known to mock the show during their performances, on one occasion suggesting that murdering an audience as they watched a performance of Dreamcoat would be an act of mercy killing.
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