Interview: Keith Jack’s the lad for Technicolour dreamcoat

Keith Jack as Joseph
Keith Jack as Joseph
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KEITH JACK wasn’t born when Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber was asked to write a ‘pop cantata’ for a junior school choir in the summer of 1967.

The idea was that the choir would sing the piece at their Easter concert.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was born, with the help of Tim Rice, who provided the lyrics.

The first performance of that ‘Joseph’ was just 15 minutes long but it laid the foundations of what is now one of Lloyd Webber’s most popular musicals.

Forty-five years on, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat returns to the Playhouse next week, with Dalkeith-born Jack in the title role.

It’s a dream come true for the 24-year-old, who originally competed for and failed to win the part on the BBC talent search Any Dream Will Do.

However, that didn’t stop Jack appearing in the production when it toured to the Playhouse in 2007, only on that occasion he was playing The Narrator.

“It was strange because I had never realised Joseph had a Narrator. So when I was offered the part I had to go and watch it again. I realised that it is actually the biggest singing part in the show. The Narrator sings the whole show.

“So, doing that part taught me a lot. I loved it and learned a lot of stagecraft but when I left it I thought that was the end of Joseph for me.”

Landing that role came as a complete surprise to Jack, who had been mentored on the programme by West End and Torchwood star John Barrowman.

“I was told six weeks after Any Dream Will Do that they wanted me for the Narrator,” he recalls. In the meantime Barrowman had continued to mentor him, helping him to settle into London.

“John was very important at that stage. We got on well during Any Dream Will Do, but then, after, we kept in touch. He would advise me on how to forward my career, told me to take acting lessons, and helped me along the way.

“Obviously coming from Scotland, where I had done nothing really, to London was a huge move, so he helped me with that transition.”

When Jack appears at the Playhouse next week, he’ll be living the dream, decked out in Joseph’s coat of many colours.

Recalling how he finally landed the role he had coveted for so long, he says, “I was at a BBC party, all the Josephs, Nancys and Marias were together, and Joseph producer Bill Kenwright was there. He turned to me and said, ‘You could really be a Joseph now’.

“I just thought, ‘Oh well, there you go. A couple of years too late.’ Then about four weeks later my agent called and said they wanted me to go back and play Joseph. I thought it was a joke to start with... when I realised it was serious it took me all of two seconds to say yes.

“I am the first person to play both leads,” he adds proudly.

Jack has now been playing the role for two years on and off and insists he still loves the role.

“I do still love it. It’s a new cast on this tour which helps keep it fresh. Also I’ve realised that different roads take you different places but you still get to the same point. So although I could do this, this and this to tell the story, equally I could have done that, that and that to get to the same point. So I keep it fluid and see what comes naturally from what I’m saying or singing at the time.

“This is my cheesy boyhood dream, that I am doing it is just incredible and it’s amazing to bring it home to Edinburgh. I can’t wait.

“I even asked for a tartan loincloth but they won’t give me it.”

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place, Tuesday-Saturday, various times, £12-£35, 0844-871 3014