HAVING complained on many occasions that the musical backing of a show was too loud, after watching and listening to the rapturous reception this loud, brash presentation of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long lasting sung-through musical received, I take my cue from the title of the Harry Barris jazz classic, and Bing Crosby’s first hit record – I Surrender Dear.
There are productions, and this bubbling, full blooded, flashily-set and costumed presentation is one, where over-amplified vocals and musical backings fit the presentation style ideally. In doing so you sacrifice some of the clarity of the characters, but the pace and exciting energy of the performances and presentation are hard to resist.
Director Laurence Connor has thrown out the static background we have grown to expect, with large numbers of children sitting on opposite sides of a fixed set of steps watching the action unfold before them, and replaced it with a brightly-lit fluid set, and eight of the 32 children in the company fully involved in many of the, at times, almost fiercely presented ensemble numbers. Adding a touch of extra comedy, they also pop up in several roles (Potiphar, to name one) usually reserved for adult members of the cast.
Going along the same lines, the role of the Narrator has almost doubled in size, taking over the vocal and dance leads in several numbers and metamorphosing into the patriarchal Jacob and man-eating flirt Potiphar’s wife. Fortunately, the multi-talented Linzi Hateley was on hand with the ability to successfully take on all those challenges.
At the opposite end of the work scale comes Jason Donovan, not that long ago a much admired Joseph, now in the gift of a role as Pharaoh. One scene and one show-stopping, a la Presley number. This role is only a gift if you have the personality and talent, to dominate the stage and make the strongest of connections directly with the audience. Unashamedly sending up the whole Elvis style, Jason had the audience in the palm of his hand by the time he (almost reluctantly) vacated the stage so that the show could go on its merry way.
The style of the production made it harder for Jac Yarrow to develop the character of Joseph, but a very definite Joseph still emerged, and, particularly accompanied with the children in Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door, he demonstrated his complete command of the vocal side of the role.
It fell to the underused Matt Gibson, as the eldest brother Reuben, and Will Hawksworth as Simeon, to lead the Brothers and their wives in a Country-and-Western-style One More Angel in Heaven and the full of French flavouring, with a dash of can-can dancing thrown in for luck, Those Canaan Days.
With stylish chorography from Joann M Hunter, and loud but well-balanced backing from MD John Rigby and the ten-piece orchestra, these two numbers were as pleasing as any in the show.
Judging by the noisy and enthusiastic reception it received the night I attended, the production should settle down to a very successful run between now and Saturday 10th September, when it leaves Bristol Hippodrome and continues on the last five venues of its nationwide tour.