It's part of the Book of Genesis... BUT WITH SINGING.
Really, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (abbreviated as Joseph...Dreamcoat, Dreamcoat, J&tATD, etc. etc.) is simply that: Andrew Lloyd Webber's Breakthrough Hit, it's based on the Biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.
As a side note, this was the musical by which Donny Osmond, playing the titular Joseph, surpassed George Rose to take the World Record for Most Appearances as a Single Character in a Stage Production. Rose previously held the record for playing Major General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance over 5200 times on stage; Osmond surpassed this mark, and eventually would go on to play Joseph in over 7000 presentations of the show.
Was later followed up by Webber's other major biblical musical: Jesus Christ Superstar.
This show provides examples of:
- Acting for Two: In-Universe. In the film version, because of the Framing Device of the show being done as an actual school play, all the main roles also play teachers or other faculty at the fictional school.
- Adaptation Distillation / Compressed Adaptation: While generally faithful to the Bible apart from the Anachronism Stew, the musical streamlines the story here and there. Instead of Joseph escaping from Mrs. Potiphar's advances and her retaliating later with a False Rape Accusation, her husband barges in during the seduction attempt and blames Joseph in a Not What It Looks Like scenario. Later, the brothers' two separate trips to Egypt are condensed into one, and instead of multiple Secret Tests of Character, they face only the "cup in Benjamin's sack" incident. The musical also never mentions that Benjamin is the only other son of Joseph's mother, and therefore Jacob's second favorite, which means that a layer of meaning behind the "cup in the sack" test (i.e. will the brothers abandon Rachel's other son the way they did Joseph?) is lost.
- Adaptational Villainy: Benjamin and Reuben. In the Bible Benjamin is still fairly young when Joseph is sold as a slave and does not participate in the attack, throwing him in a pit, or selling him. Reuben is the one who convinces the rest of his brothers not to kill Joseph and only throw him in a pit, intending to return that night to rescue him. He also does not participate in selling Joseph and is angry when he discovers it. There are some productions where Benjamin objects to Joseph being sold and has to be held back by his brothers but Reuben is always portrayed (initially) as a villain.
- In Benjamin's case it even gets a bit weirder: The musical mentions that at least part of Jacob's favoritism was due to Joseph being the son of Rachel, his favorite wife. Given that Benjamin was Joseph's full brother, and also the son of Rachel, it makes far less sense for the favoritism to affect him so blatantly (...although it was Benjamin's birth that killed Rachel...).
- Adapted Out: Joseph's Egyptian wife Asenath and two sons Ephraim and Manasseh are never mentioned in this retelling.
- All Deserts Have Cacti: Justified - the "One More Angel" song is meant to have a Western feel.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: The blue babes in Pharaoh's court.
- Anachronism Stew: The show deliberately embraces and revels in this trope:
- Pharaoh is an Elvis impersonator singing the rock-and-roll "Song of the King".
- Joseph's brothers sing the country-western "One More Angel in Heaven" in cowboy hats, and one even says "10-4, good buddy!"
- Potiphar is introduced with the 1920s Charleston-style song "Potiphar".
- Joseph's brothers sing "Those Canaan Days" as a French ballad (with ridiculous fake accents and costumes).
- Joseph's brothers sing "Benjamin Calypso".
- Many productions include other anachronisms, such as the Ishmaelites paying for Joseph with a credit card, or having a slot machine on the set during "Grovel, Grovel".
- And There Was Much Rejoicing: "There's one more angel in heaven, There's one more star in the sky..."
- Anti-Villain: Potiphar isn't really all that bad. He's just more faithful to his wife than she is to him, to the point where he'll have anyone locked up who gets involved with her.
- Bible Times
- Camp: The film, in spades.
- Chekhov's Skill: Joseph's ability to interpret dreams.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Some productions play Joseph as one of these. And it's definitely what his brothers think that he is.
- Composite Character: Inverted. In early recordings of the show, it's an anonymous "lively lad" who tells Pharaoh about Joseph; in later ones, it's the butler Joseph's already met, which makes a lot more narrative sense. Were the two characters combined when the musical was revised? On the contrary—somebody must have gone back to the Book of Genesis and noticed that in the book, the lad in question is Pharaoh's butler.
- Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: Even though the scene isn't really worth an eye-covering anyway (a dancer in a leotard), and even though Benjamin is hardly a child.
- Crowd Song: "Go Go Go Joseph".
- Crucified Hero Shot: Benjamin on the steps of Pharaoh's palace, in the movie, after his Frameup.
- Darkest Hour: Joseph's time in prison, expressed through the deeply moving "Close Every Door."
- Denser and Wackier: Though always campy, in the 30-odd years the play's been running around the world, productions have generally gotten more and more aggressively wacky, with hammier acting, more Flanderized portrayals of the characters, more anachronisms, and a deeper embrace of the varied genres of the songs. Compared to a contemporary production, the Original Broadway Cast sounds like everyone's taken a load of valium.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: From "Close Every Door": "Just give me a number, instead of a name" — coupled with the references to the Children of Israel — hark back to the treatment of death-camp inmates during World War II.
- Double Entendre: Especially among high school productions, it's practically a contest to see who can make Joseph's dream about his brothers' small, green sheaves seem the most like a penis joke.
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Zig-zagged. Depending on the production, the wacky musical break may portray anything from Mrs. Potiphar chasing Joseph around the stage to bodyguards holding him down while she has her way with him. Mrs. Potiphar molesting Joseph is one of the few things in the story that isn't played for hilarity, yet there's a goofy upbeat musical and possibly dance number playing. He clearly has the right to decline her advances, and she's clearly wrong for forcing herself on him, but you can bet however it's portrayed, will be treated more lightly than it would be with the roles reversed.
- Everything's Better with Cows: The Song Of The King And The Seven Fat Cows
- Fanservice: Apart from shirtless Joseph, among the costumes featured in the movie version? Mrs. Potiphar's costume. Which looks like a bustier with pasties.
- And her servants/handmaidens? Holy Flurking Sckint
- Pharaoh's—later Joseph's—servants were even worse. Those women were wearing nets.
- Some productions even turn the wives into this.
- And her servants/handmaidens? Holy Flurking Sckint
- Femme Fatale: Mrs. Potiphar. "She was beautiful but evil", indeed—and clearly more evil than Potiphar, who is simply a hopelessly faithful husband to an obviously unfaithful wife.
- Gender-Neutral Narrator: As written, the Narrator has no specific gender, but is now always played by a woman to make up for the complete lack of female characters (other than Potiphar's Wife).
- Groupie Brigade: During "Stone the Crows" in the movie.
- Happiness in Slavery: Joseph would be perfectly happy being enslaved in Potiphar's house, if it weren't for those darn beautiful women trying to have sex with him all the time. Though to be fair, he worked his way up so he was basically running the house. As far as slave gigs go, it's not the worst you could get.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Played for Laughs"No one comes to dinner now/We'd only eat them anyhow."
- Interactive Narrator: Depends on the production, but in the movie? Interactive enough to dance with the brothers, flirt with Pharaoh, and get hippie-married to Joseph.
- Introdump: "Jacob & Sons".
- Karma Houdini: As in the source material, Mrs. Potiphar never gets any punishment for her infidelity nor for raping someone, who ended up getting locked up on her account.
- Large Ham: The brothers, Jacob, the chorus, Pharaoh, Potiphar's wife, and the narrator usually are in later productions, which makes it a World of Ham.
- Lighter and Softer
- List Song: Red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and gray and purple and white and pink and orange and blue.
- Reuben was the eldest of the children of Israel...
- MacGuffin: the Technicolor Dreamcoat itself, which Joseph wears for all of five minutes.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: Joseph had eleven brothers, as in the Bible, and half the opening number is dedicated to naming them.
- Medium Awareness: A few of the lyrics suggest that the characters know they are in a show. For example, the Prologue has the narrator say that she will tell the story of Joseph since the audience are there for a couple of hours. The lyric, "We've read the book and you come out on top" also applies; some versions go on to reference the performance venue itself, saying, "We've been outside, and you're on the marquee."
- A lyric in Potiphar's song reminds audiences "it's all there in chapter 39 of Genesis."
- In the movie, when failing to understand Pharaoh's dreams, Joseph flips through the pages of a Bible to find the answer.
- "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: Joseph's brothers in "Grovel, Grovel". "Honesty's our middle name!"
- Minor Character, Major Song: Pharaoh!Elvis is onstage for about fifteen minutes (counting the contractually-obligated reprise of his single major song), but usually receives high billing in the credits and cast.
- Mood Whiplash: "Benjamin Calypso", a cheery pseudo-Jamaican song which comes just seconds after Benjamin is framed for theft.
- Also in "One More Angel", where the brothers celebrate Joseph's "death" while their father's gone, then pretend to cry whenever he arrives.
- Also, the ensemble goes into the rousing chorus of "Go Go Go Joseph" just after the announcement of the Baker's death.
- For that matter, the somewhat cheery, bouncy "Potiphar" segues immediately into the extremely dramatic, serious Tear Jerker of "Close Every Door", which then leads into the above "Go Go Go Joseph".
- Never Trust a Title: Though Joseph receiving his colored coat does set the plot in motion, it's not the source of his dreams nor his power to interpret them, as it's being called a "dreamcoat" in the title might have you believe. In fact, the coat is destroyed early on so Joseph doesn't even have it for most of the show.
- No Party Like a Donner Party: Implied in a Black Comedy way in "Canaan Days":No one comes to dinner now.
We'd only eat them anyhow.
- Obviously Evil: Mrs. Potiphar, who is even stated to be evil. Inverted with Potiphar, who despite appearing to be a Fat Bastard is simply a hopelessly faithful husband to a clearly unfaithful wife.
- Original Cast Precedent: The same person usually plays both Jacob and Potiphar, three of the brothers play the baker, butler, and Pharaoh, and sometimes Mrs. Potiphar will be played by one of the wives.
- Averted in the movie, where instead the cast doubles as teachers in a school.
- Overly Long Gag: Pharaoh Elvis. First there is the Song of the King, which is followed by an encore of the Song of the King. Which is followed by a reprise of Song of the King. Which is followed by an encore of the reprise of Song of the King. And every iteration is even more over the top and ridiculous than the last.
- Parental Favoritism: The whole plot starts because of this.
- Rape Discretion Shot: When Mrs. Potiphar forces herself onto Joseph, the scene soon shifts to a comparatively mundane scene, and we don't return to the previous scene until Potiphar walks in on it.Potiphar was counting shekels in his den below the bedroom
When he heard a mighty rumpus clattering above him
Suddenly he knew his riches couldn't buy him what he wanted
Gold would never make him happy if she didn't love him
- Reading Ahead in the Script: Go,go,go, Joseph, Fight till you drop/We've read the book, and you come out on top.
- Recurring Riff: "Poor, poor [whoever], whatcha gonna do?" Also, the Prologue becomes the prologue-of-sorts to the second part (Pharaoh Story). Also, "Joseph's Coat" becomes "Pharaoh's Dreams Explained" in the second act.
- Secret Test of Character: When Joseph's brothers show up in Egypt without recognizing him, he decides to both get a little revenge and prove whether or not they've changed and thus deserve his help by framing Benjamin for theft. Rather than letting him take the fall and leave with the food (as they had sold Joseph into slavery so they could return home and, they thought, get their father's attention again), they proclaim his innocence and beg to be taken and punished instead.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Joseph being held down by Mrs. Potiphar's servants while she molests him, while a wacky tune plays that sounds more like it belongs in a carnival.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Potiphar and his wife.
- Villain Song: Potiphar and his wife get their own. The brothers get "One More Angel in Heaven".
- Yandere: A male example with Potiphar, who predictably goes medieval on the wrong rear end.LETTING OUT A MIGHTY ROAR, POTIPHAR BURST THROUGH THE DOOR!
- You Can't Fight Fate: The brothers try to make it so that Joseph's dreams won't come true... And oh, how they fail.