Donny Osmond Is Joseph, Complete With Coat, on PBS April 5

05 Apr 2000

Donny Osmond in <I>Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat</I>.
Donny Osmond in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Photo by Photo by Alex Bailey
The new film version of the hit stage revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, starring Donny Osmond, will air on PBS' "Great Performances" 8 PM April 5.

The new film version of the hit stage revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, starring Donny Osmond, will air on PBS' "Great Performances" 8 PM April 5.

The conceptual 1999 film will be accompanied by a package of Andrew Lloyd Webber material under the banner of "PBS Showcase" in the 8-11 PM slot. A backstage look at the composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and his collaborators, will be shown, and Lloyd Webber will preview scenes from the upcoming TV version of Jesus Christ Superstar, to be seen at a future date on PBS. A Broadway revival of Superstar (with elements seen in the new video-film version) begins previews March 23.

The special "Great Performances" evening also includes a look at Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind and an encore presentation of the composer's "Requiem." Check local listings for exact time in your area.

The filmed "Joseph," directed by David Mallet and original revival director Steven Pimlott, is conceptual in that it begins in a coed children's school auditorium, where stuffy faculty and polite children gather to hear a reading about the Biblical story of Joseph, son of Jacob.

Maria Friedman plays the narrator, whose story erupts into spectacle, with the teachers magically transforming into the characters of Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's 90-minute retelling. Fans of the piece know that the pair wrote the show in 1968 for a school choir (it lasted 15 minutes, originally).

TV star and singer Donny Osmond, appearing Messianic with long brown locks, repeats the stage role that made him a hit all over again in the 1990s. Joan Collins plays Potiphar's wife, and famed director Richard Attenborough is Jacob.

The film, shot in 1999 at Pinewood Studios in England, is visually based on elements from the 1990s Pimlott revival, which offered Mark Thompson's spectacular sets and his ornate and sometimes revealing costumes. On national tour, local children's choirs were engaged to sing along with the action onstage, and that conceit is repeated on film, with gray-clad schoolkids jumping into the Technicolor world.

Donny Osmond performed the piece more than 2,000 times. It toured to huge audiences in Toronto and throughout North America in a staging sent out by Livent (with Sam Harris sometimes playing the title role). Michael Damien played Joseph in a limited engagement on Broadway. The movie version is to be released on home video March 28, from Really Useful Films and Universal Pictures.

A more modest Broadway staging, more in the style of storytelling than spectacle, played in 1982 (moving from Off-Broadway) starring Bill Hutton as Joseph and the late Laurie Beechman as the Narrator.

The film cast includes Ian McNeice, Robert Torti, Christopher Biggins, Alex Jennings, Nicolas Colicos, Jeff Blumenkrantz, David J. Higgins, Shaun Henson, Patrick Clancy, Martin Callaghan, Sebastien Torkia, Michael Small, Peter Challis, Nick Holmes, Gerry McIntyre and Amanda Courtney Davies.

Joseph, a hip retelling of the Genesis story, with musical styles ranging from French boite dirge to country western to Elvis and Calypso, was the first collaboration between Lloyd Webber and Rice. The British pair changed the sound of musical theatre with Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.

Great Performances' next theatrical venture, June 21, will be the Shakespeare-meets-Duke Ellington-based musical, Play On!.

-- By Kenneth Jones