Talking Points about Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Synopsis: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is based on the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis. Joseph is the 11th born of 12 sons, and his father, Jacob, gives him a coat of many colors to symbolize his preference for Joseph. Jacob’s other 11 sons become jealous of Joseph and his coat, as well as fearful of his ability to explain other people’s dreams, and find a way to sell him as a slave. Joseph becomes the slave of Potiphar, a rich Egyptian, and eventually works his way to becoming the head of the slaves and servants of the house. Potiphar’s wife makes advances toward Joseph, and in a moment of misunderstanding, Joseph is thrown in prison. While in prison, Joseph befriends two men who used to be in the service of the Pharaoh and helps them decipher their dreams. One of the men, the Butler, is reinstated in his position and tells the Pharaoh about Joseph when he learns that the Pharaoh is having troubling dreams. The Pharaoh calls on Joseph to interpret a dream, and he foretells the dream as seven plentiful years of crops followed by seven years of famine. The Pharaoh elevates Joseph to a position of great power in the government and tasks him with carrying out the preparations needed to endure the predicted famine. When the famine hits, Joseph’s brothers travel to Egypt to ask the Pharaoh for relief, not realizing that they will have to deal with Joseph. Joseph recognizes his brothers, and makes them pass a test before he will reveal himself and forgive them.
Background and History of the Show:
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a musical or operetta with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. Webber and Rice are also the writing team for various other shows, most notably Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. Joseph originated as a 15-minute cantata (a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment) at a preparatory school in London in 1968. It underwent many revisions before opening in the West End in 1973; it opened off-Broadway in 1981 and transitioned to the Royal Theatre on Broadway in 1982 where it ran just shy of 750 performances. In 1999, David Mamet directed a film version starring Donny Osmond in the title role. In late 2013, Andrew Lloyd Webber confirmed that he had signed off on a new film version after seeing the success of the Les Miserables film.
Things to Watch and Interesting Info to Know
- The musical is presented as a story within a story (often referred to as a “Frame Story”) by introducing a narrator character who sets the stage for the rest of the play.
- There are many different styles of music evident in Webber’s composition, including rock and roll, western, and parody of French ballads.
- While not the first show to be written by Webber and Rice, Joseph is the first of their collaborations to be performed publicly. (The first to be written was The Likes of Us, but it was not performed until the mid-2000s)
- Joseph may not have become a full length show without the encouragement and help of Webber’s father, William. He arranged for a revised and expanded performance at his church in Westminster after seeing the original cantata. The church performance received positive reviews from London’s Sunday Times, and subsequent performances at various locations were arranged from there.
- Between its original Broadway production and subsequent revivals, Joseph has been nominated for over 15 major theatrical awards; however, its only win is the 1992 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Set Designer.
- According to the Really Useful Group (an international film, music, and theatre group founded by Andrew Lloyd Webber), by 2008, more than 20,000 schools and armature theatre groups had done a production of the show.
Characters in the Show:
Joseph: The 11th, and favorite son of Jacob. Able to interpret dreams and predict the future. Sold into slavery by his brothers. Becomes secondhand man to the Pharaoh of Egypt.
The Narrator: Not in the time or place of the action. Present to help guide the audience through the story.
Jacob: The father of 12 son, his favorite being Joseph. Prophet who recognizes the calling for Joseph.
Potiphar: A very rich Egyptian who purchases Joseph. Makes Joseph the head of his house, but becomes suspicious of Joseph and his wife and has Joseph imprisoned.
Mrs. Potiphar: Unsuccessfully tries to seduce Joseph, but raises her husband’s suspicion about the two of them.
Pharaoh: The leader of Egypt; considered a god on earth. Promotes Joseph to a high government position after his dream is interpreted.
Baker: One of the two men that have their dreams interpreted by Joseph in prison. Former servant of the Pharaoh.
Butler: One of the two men that have their dreams interpreted by Joseph in prison. Former servant of the Pharaoh. Tells the Pharaoh about Joseph’s ability to decipher dreams.
The Eleven Brothers of Joseph: (Often double as Egyptians)
- Reuben: Eldest son of Jacob
- Simeon: 2nd son of Jacob
- Levi: 3rd son of Jacob
- Judah: 4th son of Jacob
- Dan: 5th son of Jacob
- Naphtali: 6th son of Jacob
- Gad: 7th son of Jacob
- Asher: 8th son of Jacob
- Issachar: 9th son of Jacob
- Zebulun: 10th son of Jacob
- Benjamin: 12th son of Jacob
Ishmaelites: Men of the desert who buy Joseph from his brothers, and later sell him to Potiphar.
The Wives: The wives of the 11 brothers.Share: