Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor™ Dreamcoat
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; Book and Lyrics by Tim Rice
Young Vic Theatre 16 October 1972 (16 perfs) transferred to the Albery Theatre (243 perfs)
In the biblical land of Caanan, Joseph is the favourite son of Jacob. As such, he encounters the jealousy of his brothers who object to his dreams in which he is the hero and the brothers have to pay homage to him. They arrange to have him killed and to prove his death, show their father the multicoloured coat smeared with blood. In fact, Joseph has been sold in slavery to the household of Potiphar who has him thrown in jail as he objects to the attraction between his wife and Joseph. Joseph's ability to interpret dreams is relayed to Pharaoh who has started to have a series of dreams. Joseph foresees seven years of full harvests and this to be followed by seven years of famine. Joseph is put in charge of preparing for the years of famine and, just as prophesied, the dreams came true.
Back in Caanan, the famine affected Joseph's family too. The brothers travel to Egypt to find work. They go to Joseph who recognises them but they don't recognise him. They bow down before him (just as foretold in an earlier dream). Joseph has a score to settle though and after giving his brothers grain, he hides a goblet in Benjamin's sack. Benjamin is accused of theft. The brothers plead for Benjamin's release from custody and Joseph relents and then reveals himself as their brother. The ending is a happy one.
The story is based on the Biblical story of Joseph, found in the Book of Genesis. It is set in a frame in which a narrator is telling a story (sometimes to children, encouraging them to dream). She then tells the story of Joseph, another dreamer. In the beginning of the main story Jacob and his 12 sons are introduced. Joseph's brothers are jealous of him for his coat of many colours, a symbol of their father's preference for him. It is clear from Joseph's dreams that he is destined to rule over them. To get rid of him and prevent the dreams from coming true, they attempt fratricide, but then they sell Joseph as a slave to some passing Ishmaelites who take him to Egypt.
Back home, his brothers, led by Reuben and accompanied by their wives, break the news to Jacob that Joseph has been killed. They show his tattered coat smeared with his blood – really goat blood – as proof that what they say is true. After the bereft Jacob leaves, the brothers and their wives happily celebrate the loss of Joseph.
In Egypt, Joseph is the slave of Egyptian millionaire Potiphar. He rises through the ranks of slaves and servants until he is running Potiphar's house. When Mrs. Potiphar makes advances, Joseph spurns her. She removes his shirt, feels his chest and back, squeezes his rear and blows him kisses. Potiphar overhears, barges in, sees the two together – and jumps to conclusions. Outraged, he throws Joseph in jail. Depressed, Joseph laments the situation – but his spirits rise when he helps two prisoners put in his cell. Both are former servants of the Pharaoh and both have had bizarre dreams. Joseph interprets them. One cellmate, the Baker, will be executed, but the other, the Butler, will be returned to service. Upon hearing this, the rest of the prisoners surround Joseph and encourage him to go after his dreams.
The Narrator tells of impending changes in Joseph's fortunes because the Pharaoh is having dreams that no-one can interpret. Now freed, the Butler tells Pharaoh (acted in the style of Elvis Presley) of Joseph and his dream interpretation skills. Pharaoh orders Joseph to be brought in and the king tells him his dream involving seven fat cows, seven skinny cows, seven healthy ears of corn, and seven dead ears of corn.
Joseph interprets the dream as seven plentiful years of crops followed by seven years of famine. An astonished Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of carrying out the preparations needed to endure the impending famine, and Joseph becomes the most powerful man in Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh.
Back home, the famine has caught up with Joseph's brothers, who – led by the brother Simeon – express regret at selling him and deceiving their father. They hear Egypt still has food and decide to go there to beg for mercy and to be fed, not realising that they will be dealing with Joseph. He gives them sacksful of food and sends them on their way, but plants a golden cup in the sack of his youngest brother, Benjamin. When the brothers try to leave, Joseph stops them, asking about the "stolen cup". Each brother empties his sack, and it is revealed that Benjamin has the cup. Joseph then accuses Benjamin of robbery. The other brothers, led by Judah, beg for mercy for Benjamin, imploring that Joseph take them prisoner and set Benjamin free.
Seeing their selflessness and penitence, Joseph reveals himself and sends for his father. The two are reunited for a happy conclusion and Joseph dons his coloured coat once more.
NB: In some productions, the finale is followed by a rock/disco medley of most of the musical's major numbers ("Joseph Megamix").
- Narrator: A woman (in original productions, a man), not of the time or place of the action. The Narrator tells the story through word and song, guiding the audience gently through the story of Joseph and his brothers, usually gives meaning to the story with her/his words.
- Jacob: The father of twelve sons, his favourite being Joseph. At times he may appear unfair and shallow, but he is, more importantly, the prophet who recognizes the future and the calling of Joseph, thus saving the House of Israel.
- Joseph: Obviously his father’s favourite, Joseph early on shows a talent for interpreting dreams and telling the future. This gets him into trouble with his brothers when he predicts his future will include ruling over the other eleven. However, it saves his life when in Egypt he correctly interprets Pharaoh’s dreams. In the end he has risen to a great position of power, but he still forgives his brothers and brings his family to Egypt to partake of the bounty he has accumulated there.
- Three Ladies: These multi-talented women appear in the play as many characters: Jacob’s wives, saloon girls, dancing girls, and so on.
- Ishmaelites: Men of the desert, they buy Joseph as a slave, take him to Egypt, and sell him to Potiphar.
- Potiphar: A powerful and rich Egyptian, Potiphar purchases Joseph and puts him to work in his household, where he soon realizes that Joseph is honest, hard-working, and a great addition to his pool of help. When he grows suspicious of his wife and Joseph, however, he grows angry and has Joseph thrown into prison.
- Mrs. Potiphar: Beautiful and scheming, Mrs. Potiphar tries to seduce Joseph, but is unsuccessful. However, she does manage to rip off much of his clothing just as her husband comes into the room, thus condemning him to prison.
- Baker: One of Pharaoh servants, the Baker is in prison with Joseph who correctly interprets his dreams and predicts that he will be put to death.
- Butler: Another of Pharaoh servants, the Butler is also in prison with Joseph who also correctly interprets his dreams, this time that he will be released and taken back into Pharaoh's household. It is the Butler who tells Pharaoh about Joseph and his uncanny ability with dreams.
- Pharaoh: The most powerful man in Egypt, Pharaoh is considered a god on earth. When Joseph interprets his dreams, he promotes him to one of the highest positions in his government. In most productions, Pharaoh is portrayed as an Elvis Presley-style figure.
Joseph's Eleven Brothers
- Reuben: Eldest son of Jacob; showed kindness to Joseph and was the means of saving his life when his other brothers would have put him to death.
- Simeon: Second son of Jacob; detained by Joseph in Egypt as a hostage.
- Levi: Third son of Jacob, by Leah; he went down with Jacob into Egypt.
- Judah: Fourth son of Jacob; he pleads with Joseph when Benjamin is falsely arrested for theft of a goblet; one of his descendants was to be the Messiah.
- Dan: Fifth son of Jacob, by Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid.
- Naphtali: Sixth son of Jacob, by Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid.
- Gad: Seventh son of Jacob, by Zilpah, Leah's handmaid.
- Asher: Eighth son of Jacob, by Zilpah, Leah's handmaid;.
- Issachar: Ninth son of Jacob.
- Zebulun: Tenth son of Jacob; he had three sons.
- Benjamin: Twelfth son of Jacob. Joseph accuses him of stealing the golden cup. After Joseph went missing Benjamin was beloved.
The Wives: The wives to the eleven brothers (ensemble).
- Adult chorus
- Children's chorus
- Prologue - Narrator
- Any Dream Will Do - Joseph, Children
- Jacob and Sons - Narrator, Brothers, Wives, Children, Ensemble
- Joseph's Coat - Jacob, Joseph, Narrator, Brothers, Wives, Children, Ensemble
- Joseph's Dreams - Narrator, Brothers, Joseph
- Poor, Poor Joseph - Narrator, Brothers, Children
- One More Angel in Heaven - Reuben, Narrator, Brothers, Wives, Jacob, Children
- Potiphar - Children, Narrator, Male Ensemble, Mrs Potiphar, Potiphar, Joseph
- Close Every Door - Joseph, Children
- Go, Go, Go Joseph - Narrator, Butler, Baker, Ensemble, Joseph, Guru, Children
- Pharaoh's Story - Narrator, Children
- Poor, Poor Pharaoh - Narrator, Butler, Pharaoh, Children
- Song of the King - Pharaoh, Ensemble
- Pharaoh's Dream Explained - Joseph, Ensemble, Children
- Stone the Crows - Narrator, Pharaoh, Children, Joseph, Female Ensemble
- King of My Heart - Pharaoh
- Those Canaan Days - Simeon, Jacob, Brothers
- The Brothers Come To Egypt/Grovel, Grovel - Narrator, Brothers, Joseph, Female Ensemble, Children
- Who's the Thief? - Joseph, Brothers, Female Ensemble
- Benjamin Calypso - Judah, Brothers (but Benjamin), Female Ensemble
- Joseph All the Time - Narrator, Joseph, Children
- Jacob in Egypt - Narrator, Jacob, Children, Ensemble
- Any Dream Will Do (Reprise) - Joseph, Narrator, Ensemble, Jacob, Children
- Give Me My Coloured Coat - Joseph, Children, Ensemble
- Joseph Megamix - Ensemble