Go, go, go Joseph!
an article for the North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ Column
By the Rev Ed Hird
For the second time in the past seven years, I have had the privilege of having one of my sons in the “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” musical. My middle son Mark, as part of a North Vancouver Choir, was in the Livent Production at the Ford Theatre in downtown Vancouver. My youngest son Andrew just finished playing Zebulun in a Joseph production at the Terry Fox Theatre in Port Coquitlam. It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. I want to commend all the young people (and not so young) in ‘Joseph’ for the excellent job that they did, pouring their hearts and souls into a high-quality performance. It was exciting to see my son Andrew shine with life and vitality as he experienced the joy of working together on a high-quality community theatre team.
‘Joseph’ is one of those musicals that never seems to wear out, probably because of its theme of biblical proportions! It was so much fun! Perhaps the most colorful musical ever! I especially loved that amazing coat: it was red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and all those other 57 amazing colours.
The Joseph musical variety was remarkable: country (One More Angel in Heaven), French-bistro (Those Canaan Days), Disco-rock (Go, Go, Go Joseph), Calypso (Benjamin), and even Elvis (Song of the King). Weeks later, these catchy songs keep running through my head when I am waking up or going to sleep.
The Joseph musical began in 1968 as a 20-minute “pop cantata” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice for a school Easter concert in the UK. Derek Jewell, then the jazz and pop critic for the SUNDAY TIMES, unexpectedly gave the Joseph Musical national exposure when he wrote: "Throughout its twenty-minute duration it bristles with wonderfully singable tunes. It entertains. It communicates instantly, as all good pop should. And it is a considerable piece of barrier-breaking by its creators."
Tim Rice’s favorite Bible story had long been Joseph and his coat of many colors. Speaking of the Genesis 39 Joseph story, Tim Rice commented: "This great tale has everything -- plausible, sympathetic characters, a flawed hero, and redeemed villains ... It is a story of triumph against the odds, of love and hate, of forgiveness and optimism. As with all great stories, the teller has no need to spell out the messages if he tells the tale well...”
Five years later, Joseph was expanded to 40 minutes in London, and then to 90 minutes in New York. After Andrew Lloyd Webber’s huge success with Jesus Christ Superstar, his Joseph musical finally hit Broadway in 1982, where it became one of the most enduring and endearing shows of all time.
With tens of millions of people having seen Joseph worldwide, the Joseph musical now has a place in The Guinness Book of Records for the world's longest running touring musical.
As well as twelve different professional casts in its thirty-one year history, Joseph has been performed in 15,000 schools or local theatres, involving over 500,000 performers of all ages. Today there are nearly 500 school or amateur productions each year in the UK, and over 750 in the US & Canada.
The song that touched me the deepest in Joseph was "Close Every Door To Me”. Joseph poignantly sings: “Close every door to me, Keep those I love from me. Children of Israel are never alone, for I know I shall find my own peace of mind, for I have been promised a land of my own.” This song both faced the depths of Joseph’s despair in prison, and yet clung steadfastly to God’s promises of hope. Joseph never gave up on his dreams, and neither should we.
Even after betrayal again and again by his brothers and others, Joseph saw the big picture, and at the end extended forgiveness to his jealous brothers. “You meant it for evil”, he said to them, “but God meant it for good.” All things really do work for good for those who love the Lord. May you, like Joseph, discover His goodness today.
The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Communion in Canada