Later productions of Joseph begin with an introduction by the Narrator, usually in the form of a (Sunday) school teacher explaining that she will be telling her pupils (who will take the role of the children's chorus throughout the piece) the story of Joseph. In productions where "Any Dream Will Do" follows as the next song, Joseph appears to the Narrator and the children, and draws them from the present day into ancient times so that they can witness first hand his story unfolding.
The Narrator begins the story by explaining that "way, way back many centuries ago, not long after the Bible began", Jacob lived with his wives and sons in Canaan. His favorite son was Joseph. Joseph's brothers were envious of him not only because he had their father’s affection, as shown by a coat of many colors Jacob gives to Joseph, but also because Joseph tells them that he's had a dream about corn and stars which seems to indicate that he was "born for higher things" than his brothers. The brothers decide that Joseph needs to go.
The brother's sell Joseph into slavery, and fake his death to make it appear that Joseph was killed by a wild goat. Jacob is greatly distressed by this news, and the brothers try to cheer him up.
Meanwhile, Joseph has been sold to landowner Potiphar. A diligent worker, Joseph wins Potiphar's favour, and things are looking up ... until Mrs. Potiphar decides that Joseph has won her (sexual) favour as well. When Joseph tries to escape her advances, Mrs. Potiphar allows her husband to believe that the situation was the other way around, and Joseph is imprisoned.
In prison, Joseph laments his fate, but remains hopeful. He interprets the dreams of two prison mates, and his predictions about the way their prison terms will end is correct.
The Egyptian Pharaoh is troubled by dreams of his own about corn and cows. Joseph is brought to him to interpret the dreams, and when Joseph tells him the dreams foretell seven years of plentiful harvest followed by seven years of famine, Pharaoh appoints Joseph in charge of storing food and later rationing it. When famine strikes, thanks to Joseph’s efforts, Egypt is fine.
Everything is not fine for Joseph's family back in Canaan who are starving. The brothers journey to Egypt to beg for food and are brought before Joseph. He recognises them, but they do not realise he is their brother. Joseph conceals a silver cup in his brother Benjamin's bag, and then accuses Benjamin of stealing it and orders him to be put in prison. The other brothers beg for mercy, saying that they are sure Benjamin would not do such a thing and that Joseph should blame them instead. Joseph decides that his brothers are now "honest men" and tells them who he is. Jacob is brought to Egypt, and the family is reunited.
In newer productions, the show ends with a "Mega Mix" of snatches from the various songs sung by the company as the characters revel in the story’s happy ending.
The show is mainly composed of happy pop tunes (e.g. "Go, Go, Go Joseph"). Andrew threw in parodies of different kinds of music -- country ("One More Angel In Heaven"), French ("Those Canaan Days"), calypso ("Benjamin Calypso"), Elvis Presley ("Song Of The King") -- that rather than making the show seem a mixed jumble of everything, keeps it fresh with its constant changes. Tim made a name for himself with his witty and daring lyrics such a the much-cited rhyming "farmer" with "pajamas", having Joseph's concern with being sold into slavery that he doesn't "speak Egyptian very well", or the comic treatment of the scene with Mrs. Potiphar. The piece does, however, have a few darker moments. "Close Every Door" smoothly combines Joseph's personal despair (and hope) with that of the children of Israel. "Any Dream Will Do", which has been sung at various points in the show throughout its history, has a lyric that isn't as happy as the catchy tune it goes with: "May I return to the beginning/The light is dimming, and the dream is too". It's a show that is fast-paced enough to keep children's attention while at the same time written on a level which will keep adults entertained as well.
Lyrical quotes from Tim Rice's libretto for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
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