Andrew Lloyd Webber has been passionate about music education for children since his early 20s (he’s now 67). His and Tim Rice’s musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, was originally written for children, and the show is often performed with a children’s choir. Did you know, though, that it started out as a humble, short, 15-minute piece written for an Easter choir concert Lloyd Webber’s younger brother Julian was performing in? Here’s the story:
Alan Doggett, a music teacher at Colet Court school in Hammersmith, England, had asked Lloyd Webber if he would compose a piece just for the Easter end-of-term concert. Lloyd Webber asked his friend, Tim Rice, if he’d write the lyrics. The school’s choir performed at the Old Assembly Hall at Colet Court on March 1, 1968. The piece was performed two more times in 1968: May 12 at Central Hall, Westminster, where Lloyd Webber’s father was the organist, and November 9 at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The third performance was already the beginning of an expanded version.
Then, in January 1969, the record label Decca released an album of the St Paul’s Cathedral version of Joseph. Have a listen to this early rendition of “Any Dream Will Do”. You’ll hear a children’s choir singing in the background, of course, as you do for many of the cast recordings and also the movie, but the feel of the song is definitely different from later versions.
And then for a time, any further developments on Joseph stopped, and Lloyd Webber and Rice moved on to create Jesus Christ Superstar. (Interesting fact: Ted Neely, who starred as Jesus in the 1973 film version of JSC reprised the role here in 2010.)
Developments on Joseph continued to give it a form similar to today’s version. It opened in the 750-seat Haymarket Theatre in Leicester, England in 1974 and performed there several times throughout the 70s. In 1982, it opened on Broadway at the Royale Theatre – now called the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre – which seated 1,100 people. It enjoyed 747 performances. The musical’s popularity only grew from there.
Encouraging children in music has always been important to Lloyd Webber, and Joseph is proof of that. Indeed, he announced in October 2015 that he would donate $150,000 USD to begin music education programs in 20 New York City schools.
“I have been passionate about the importance of music in education ever since I wrote Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for a school nearly 50 years ago,” said Lloyd Webber in a news release. He has made several of his musicals available for schools to perform, including Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Jesus Christ Superstar.
A Broadway hit originally written for families about a family and the big adventures of one son, this musical is not to be missed. Come see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, performing one night only in January on our main stage.