Returning for another Summer Youth Group production with the well-known story about Joseph (the young man gifted with dreams of future events), this highly talented youth company is gifted with attracting young performers of the calibre of Conor Cox, who’s angelic vocals and confident playing of Joseph here proved that his own stage future could well be the stuff that dreams are made of.
The high standard that this company consistently sets for itself with its productions never ceases to amaze me … and this one was no exception.
This could be because many of the children here are in the age group for which Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice originally wrote the piece, but is probably more to do with the high production values that the relatively young creative team instil into its even younger cast.
Directed with clear vision by Ross White and his assistant directors, Caoimhe O’Sullivan and Keava McEvoy, this well-paced production was short and sharp with no time being wasted in the retelling of Joseph’s eventful life story.
The show was performed on an open stage with a triple level central rostrum, which – like large triangles lying on their sides – managed to incorporate the show’s famous, and almost obligatory, ‘pyramid’ formations, while the warm lighting plot remained both attractive and effective at all times.
Musically, the seven-piece band coped well with the varied pace, tempo and musical styles as it rocked its way through the predominately pop, but eclectic, score, while musical director, Adam Darcy, coaxed some great choral work and individual vocals from all to provide a show with too many musical highlights to mention.
A combination of Lucy McAdam’s strict stage management and Rachel McAdam’s well-planned choreography and movement ensured a slick show with the full use of both sides of the auditorium, in addition to rear stage entrances, making all ensemble exits and entrances appear seamless.
Indeed, good positioning and effective use of the rostrum always created performances that were visually pleasing.
The overall quality of diction was a hallmark of success throughout, and this was particularly noticeable in the performances of the three narrators – Claire Whitehead, Anna Smith and Jessica Burns – who clearly set the scene during the Prologue before moving the story on in a very professional manner.
Individually and collectively, they displayed that unique ability of being confident and in control of proceedings without ever overshadowing the younger performers who were bringing the story to life so well around them.
In many ways, this ever-present trio was the back-bone of this well-populated production.
With the evergreen problem of having few boys participating in shows, Joseph’s brothers were, by necessity, almost entirely made up of young girls, but – like the entire ensemble – all performances were enthusiastic and energetic
For children so young on stage, I was impressed by the many and varied facial expressions that were brought into play when required and must single out both Olivia Feron and young Bella Watts in particular for their facial-acting and general stage presence throughout.
There was also good support from Joshua Martin, Harrison Gordon, Rachel Smith, Daniel Spratt and Zoe Long and from The Brothers, The Wives and the ensemble players.
Courtney Rainey’s hair and make-up was always spot-on, while Arlene Riley’s costumes provided lots of nice clean whites, which worked well with the warm lighting in this visually clean production.
The appropriately rich and sparkly costumes on some of the principals brought a bit of glitz and glamour to the show and I loved both the colourful garlands during the calypso number and the symbolic fleece waistcoats worn by the brothers.
However, while there was uniformity of colour in the ensemble footwear, I felt that a uniform style of footwear (nothing too elaborate) would have been the finishing touch to the otherwise perfect costuming.
From its opening rendition of the much-loved Any Dream Will Do to its lively Megamix finale, this was an uplifting show and – thanks to all at Ravara – my young grandson, Leon, had a positive theatrical experience and a great introduction to the world of musical theatre, on this, his first trip to a theatre.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Ravara Productions’ Juniors
Belvoir Players Studio, Belfast
Tue 8-Sat 12 Aug, 2017
All photos by Melissa Gordon of Gorgeous Photography