Friday, April 20, 2007

Any dream doesn't

We have had enough of being Andrew Lloyd Webber’s proxies, his all-too-real casting couch. If he wants to find stars for his new production of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, let him do it himself and not disturb our Saturday nights.

I’ll admit it: I fell for his last star-spotting contest, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, with its cast of plucky wannabes and tone-deaf chanteuses. Fell hard. Fell so hard that I would walk around all week singing ‘Maria, I just met a girl named Maria’. (Yes, I know this is from West Side Story, but it’s much catchier.)

But now my heart has hardened. Gone are the joyful melodies of the Austrian mountains and the innocence of raindrops, sleigh bells and strudel. In their place we have Lord Lloyd Webber’s very first musical baby, which started off as an entertainment for schoolchildren and should have remained that way.

The pain here is twin. First, the thought of providing a leading man for Joseph: I would much rather the role went uncast and the production unsung. Just as the West End is escaping from the twenty-five year tyranny of Andrew Lloyd Webber, we are going to be dragged back in again – and we’re the ones choosing the executioner!

Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph, Starlight Express, Sunset Boulevard, Bombay Dreams, the Woman in White – it’s more like a charge sheet than a résumé.

But let us not condemn Joseph as just another Lloyd Webber show – it has faults all of its own, which include the simplistic emotions of the songs (sad 'Close Every Door to Me', or happy 'Go, Go, Go Joseph' being egregious examples); the presence of the prepubescent choir, singing their high-pitched hearts out; and the unfailingly uninteresting leading men who have been Joseph before (Darren Day, anyone?). Is this last likely to be corrected by a nationwide search? I doubt it.

What irritates me more is that we are the audience as guinea-pig. (I know this is a fault shared by all of Pop Idol’s indolent offspring, who conduct their market research via text-message.) Instead of a casting director choosing someone for their talent, the audience must pick their own star (however questionably able), must feel ‘invested’ in the production. It’s fool-proof casting – you have a ready-made pool of people ready to go see it – but whether you get the best man for the role is debatable.

I could forgive most of this in How Do You Solve… There the quality of the music, the fascinating rags-to-nun’s habit stories and the general nobility of the venture (returning the Sound of Music to the London stage) all worked for the programme. I will even admit it too could be irredeemable. But to beg our indulgence while we choose a leading man for a hideous show we gratefully sent on rep years ago? No, no, no Joseph.

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