On Thursday the 12th May 2016, Dulwich Prep London was presented with an original masterpiece of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ written by Tim Rice and produced by our own Director of Drama, Benji Sperring, and involving a cast, crew and band of over fifty boys from years 5 to 8.
It was a full house in the Drama Studio on night three of the production as parents, friends, old boys, staff and governors all gathered to see this year’s musical. The crowd came to silence when the cast opened up with their first song “Jacob and Sons”, and the enthusiasm and ability of the boys quickly became apparent. The facial expressions and enthusiasm of Joseph’s brothers, played by Alexander, Arjun, Charlie, Christopher, William, Harlie, Jacob, Leonardo, Louis, Shrey and Teddy, demonstrated exceptional collaborative skills and a mature and nuanced performance that had exceptional vocal strength and characterisation right from the word “go”.
Their following numbers, including the mind-bogglingly complex “Coat of Many Colours”, “One More Angel in Heaven”, “Benjamin Calypso” and “Those Canaan Days” was testament to their sustained ability and commitment to the show.
The story of Joseph sees our title character come under the grievances of his brothers after receiving visions of the future in his dreams, and endures a journey that moves from Canaan to Egypt, and from poverty to power. Arising from the Book of Genesis, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical mixes rocking tracks with heartfelt ballads, and presents us with a captivating character at its centre: Joseph. Played by Lewis and Gregor on alternating nights throughout the week, the boys brought real strength to the part; it’s not easy to play the eponymous hero in a musical and – while rehearsed simultaneously – they managed it separately during the performances with charisma and emotion.
Numbers such as Close Every Door To Me were beautifully poignant as the audience sat transfixed at such young boys singing such famous music with feeling and intensity, and Joseph’s Dreams and Grovel, Grovel showed the vocal dexterity and power that they were able to put into their performances.
Meanwhile, another directorial choice meant that the narrator – traditionally a female counterpart to Joseph’s tale – was split amongst a group of fifteen boys who were underpinning the drama throughout the show and singing almost constantly. The boys strung together the entire show with ease and their voices captivated the audience throughout the production. The song Go, Go, Go Joseph was running through the audiences’ collective minds for hours, if not days, afterwards. It is no easy feat learning an entire show like that, and their diction, vocal strength and facial expressions throughout were first-class.
The second act started with a roar as the Pharoah, Ted, entered the stage, face full of makeup and a voice of an Egyptian angel. His duet with Joseph, Lewis, left the entire audience all shook up with his exaggerated Elvis inspired performance of the Egyptian King. The way they connected with and involved the audience was a skill well beyond their years.
In addition to the fine work of all the cast, the audience were treated to live musical accompaniment, including the skills of Y7 boys Benjamin (bass guitar) and Zafar (trombone), all under the masterful musical direction of Director of Music Mr Brooke. Even the stage management behind the scenes was under the control of the boys, with Samson and Ciaran helping Mr Stephenson with all of the quick changes, set and costume backstage!
After last years’ Little Shop of Horrors, and Christmas’ A Christmas Carol, drama at Dulwich Prep London is becoming a popular endeavour – who knows what the show will be next year?