Jess Conrad as Joseph with the huge technicolor rainbow coat

Memories of Joseph

Way way back many centuries ago, not long after the bible began… (OK, so maybe not that long ago).

But back in 1975, we welcomed the one-and-only Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to Leeds Grand Theatre for the first time. We’ve been delving deep into our archives and asking you, our audience, to share your memories of the show.

Written by Bryony Jameson.

May I return, to the beginning…

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph started life on 1 March 1968 as a 15 minute musical piece written for Colet Court School’s end of term choir performance. After a couple more outings and extensions to the piece over the year, the show was recorded by Decca Records.

With a couple more successes for the show, including a performance at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Lloyd Webber and Rice decided they could go no further with Joseph in mid-1969, opting to pursue another show with a biblical narrative – Jesus Christ Superstar.

The 1971 hit encouraged a rediscovery of Joseph as a marketing campaign for the Decca album billed the show as their ‘follow up to Jesus Christ Superstar‘. Then in 1972, a production at the Edinburgh Festival with the Young Vic Company led to runs in London at the Young Vic, Roundhouse and ultimately the West End. Various extensions and amendments were made over this time, with the original West End production running until 1978.

We believe the very first performance of Joseph at Leeds Grand Theatre was a two week run from 28 January 1975, starring Leonard Whiting in the titular role. The popularity of the show was clearly great as it returned within the same year for one week on 14 July, starring Bryan Evans.

The show has evolved a lot over the last 50 years, but it’s particularly interesting that from our first programmes, we can see that the Narrator is played by a male actor and that the role sharing changes. In January 1975, Jacob and Pharaoh split the role of Narrator, but in July 1975, the Narrator is a standalone role while Jacob/Pharaoh are played by one actor. In the latest production in 2022, Narrator Linzi Hateley can be seen donning a beard to become Jacob!

1975 - Joseph Leeds Grand poster

1975 - Joseph poster, Leodis Leeds Libraries

1975 - Joseph Leeds Grand poster

1975 - Joseph poster, Leodis Leeds Libraries

1978 - Joseph Leeds Grand poster

1978 - Joseph poster, Leodis Leeds Libraries

1981 - Joseph Leeds Grand poster

1981 - Joseph poster, Leodis Leeds Libraries

In a class above the rest

Ahead of the show retuning this week, we asked audiences on social media for their memories of the show at The Grand and beyond!

“My big brother played Joseph in the school show in Anglesey in 1994 he was brilliant!! We are all coming to the Grand on Saturday 23rd July to watch his favourite show! We all know the words to the show as a result of his hours of practicing all those years ago 🥰🥰🥰 – Bronwen

“Saw it when I brought my daughter, then 9, to see it at Leeds Grand with Joe McElderry in 2016. Now it’s my son’s dream to perform in shows such as this!” – Sara

“I saw Joseph for the first time in Doncaster when I was 8! I shall be bringing my 8 year old daughter to Leeds to see it in July. We can’t wait!! I think I am more excited than she is!!” – Laura

“I saw it in the West End with Jason and Linzi. I was blown away by Linzi’s voice and it was her that got me hooked on musicals!” – Karen

“The first time we took our daughter to see the show it was Joe McElderry and a few years later she got to be in the choir and Jaymi Hensley was Joseph 🥰 – Jane

“I saw Jason as Joseph and Linzi as narrator in the West End back in the day. My mum took me as my first proper West End treat and I loved it! Bought the cd and learnt all the words for all parts! 🤣 Also, should mention that my mum wolf whistled at Jason as she could “see up his loincloth!” 🙄 Bringing her back to see it on 23rd and I’m not promising she’ll behave then!” – Karen

A selection of Joseph posters dating from 2000-2022.

A selection of Joseph posters dating from 2000-2022.