BEHIND THE SCENES: In Rehearsal With Danielle Hope, Lloyd Daniels And The Cast Of JOSEPH!
It's a swelteringly hot day in West London, and you can't help but feel a little sorry for the cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (beginning their UK tour this week). While production staff and scattered members of the press are wilting, gulping down as much water as possible and edging ever closer to the single fan in the rehearsal room, the company are ready to sing, dance and showcase their work.
Bill Kenwright, producer and co-director, is an affable presence. He's been associated with the show for decades, and is happy sharing his anecdotes of previous productions as well as former cast members (name drops include Jess Conrad, Limahl of Kajagoogoo, and David Ian). And it's perhaps no surprise that when he waves a hand in the general direction of the company, he refers to them as "the kids". (Lloyd Daniels, playing Joseph, and Matt Lapinskas, playing Pharaoh, meanwhile, get dubbed "the lads".)
"There are no musicals in history where the performers do nearly twice daily on tour, which they have been doing now for nearly 35 years - and that's a testament to the piece itself," says Kenwright.
"Joseph must have introduced more young actors to the profession than any 20 other shows added together. It's a great, big, wonderful family show. There will never, ever be a show like this again."
Kenwright decided to do this latest tour initially because he wanted to work with Danielle Hope.
"She'd done The Wizard of Oz for me at the Palladium, and I talked to her agent, and I said, 'Fancy a go at Joseph?' She is the best, this kid. She's still a kid from Manchester who loves the theatre," he enthuses.
"This was something I'd wanted to do for a while," says Lloyd Daniels. "It's a big change for me. It's interesting finding my musical theatre voice - and I've got a Welsh accent!"
Kenwright interrupts: "We like the Welsh accent!"
He'd seen Daniels on The X Factor ("I watch it every week!"), and immediately identified him as a potential future Joseph; and was tipped off about Lapinskas by his EastEnders' co-star Shane Richie.
"I've never done a musical before!" says Lapinskas. "Dan and Lloyd have been helping me with the singing, and we bounce off each other. We're like the Three Musketeers!"
The trio of young stars chatter about their shared experiences of reality TV (Hope on Over The Rainbow, Daniels on The X Factor, and Lapinskas on Dancing on Ice), and they've obviously bonded very quickly - Daniels confesses that they watched a production DVD when they were on a press call in Dublin, and that was the first time he'd ever seen the show.
"It's never been easy to get stars to go on the road," admits Kenwright.
This company, however, will be going around the country until November, with their three leads' names above the title.
"I've always wanted to tour. I think it's so important to go round the regions because not everybody can get to London," says Hope.
Daniels adds: "I honestly can't wait!"