For the Oxford based amateur musical youth theatre company DIY, February half term was a dream come true, writes Sandra McClimont.

DIY’s adaptation of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, starred a youthful cast at the Amey Theatre at Abingdon School.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is based on a biblical story of betrayal, family rivalry, jealousy and envy and it was turned into a spectacle of colours by this superb young cast. The show was performed by people from the ages of five to 17 and had a live band of young musicians from local schools and Oxford University.

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 multi-coloured coat smeared with blood.

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The most amusing part of the first act saw the 11 brothers pretend to be desperately sad for the loss of Joseph in front of their father, but were actually delighted to have got rid of him. All the young performers were totally in character switching from grief to joy while singing and dancing to a very entertaining One More Angel in Heaven.

The young Joseph, Ellie Brown, is a very talented young lady, with great voice control who carried the whole show with great aplomb.

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The first act ended strongly after Go go go Joseph. There was a clear energy and passion from the whole cast, including the very young ones, that was relentless and lasted through the longer second act.

Many stage adaptations of classical stories have used ‘creative license’ and Joseph is no different. During the second act an Elvis Presley look-alike, beautifully performed by a very eye catching Pharaoh, Edie Gray, appeared with a couple of songs – a clear tribute to the rock-and-roll legend. If you are unfamiliar with the musical you may have been slightly bemused by where this sits in the story of Joseph.

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Likewise, the scene set in France and sung in a French accent, is mildly confusing yet totally charming. The whole cast contributed to present a show that had a superb feelgood factor throughout without ever descending into shabbyness.

The audience showed their enjoyment by participating, clapping and cheering throughout the performances and loved classic numbers such as Any Dream Will Do, Go Go Go Joseph, One More Angel in Heaven, Those Canaan Days and Close every door.

The narrator’s part was cleverly divided between three singers Annalisa McClimont, Jesame Davidson and Mel Houldershaw. Poly Smart, the director, and Livi Van Warmelo, the musical director, designed three narrator parts in order to create beautiful harmonies that elegantly guided the audience through the story of Joseph and his brothers, to great effect.

Livi Van Warmelo, an Oxford University student, very professionally directed the wonderful band that was tightly squeezed in the ‘pit’ at the front of the stage.

The show was aptly directed by DIY’s Poly Smart who, with assistant director Rocci Wilkison, made a great team and used the obvious natural chemistry of this young cast to great effect. The stage design and the technical elements such as the lighting and sound effects, greatly enhanced this production. For that we have to thank Ryan Phipps and Danny Owen who produced such a professional set up.

Costumes were made by some of the performers’ parents: Rachel Brown and Lisbeth Tickell. Joseph’s technicolor coat once unfurled during the last song, drew gasps of wonder and joy from the audience.

The name of the DIY group represents the spirit of collaboration and support that inspires this amateur youth theatre group. The actors and most of the musicians are pupils and students from Oxford. Many of them have already staged prominent productions with DIY both locally and abroad. West Side Story, the Leonard Bernstein musical, was shown in Oxford in 2015, in Bonn in 2017, Grenoble in 2018 and Padua in 2019 (the German, French and Italian cities are all twinned with Oxford). The DIY company is made up of around 70 people, including actors, musicians and production teams, accompanied by family members who support the cast and musicians.

DIY has come a long way over the years and with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat they prove that they are true professionals in the field of youth theatre production. Their summer production is something to look forward to.

The next production to look out for is Evita, which comes to the Amey Theatre on July 24 and 35. It was last year staged in Bonn, with youngsters from the German city in the cast – some of whom will visit Oxfordshire for the production.