Joseph - Sándor Nagy
Narrator - Judit Ladinek
Pharaoh - Attila Barát
First, do check out Madách Színház if you go to Budapest. The theatre building is one of the most beautiful and fascinating ones I've ever seen. All the walls and even some ceilings are covered in half-surreal detailed paintings and the architecture is magnificent. I could have spent hours just looking at the paintings.
Joseph is not my favourite musical in the world, I have some CDs and the official video with Donny Osmond and Maria Friedman, but I was curious to find out how the Hungarians have done it. I was not disappointed, the production is hilarious and I got a stomach ache after all that laughing.
As usually in Budapest, the actors were great. I had hoped to see Attila Sérban as Joseph, but Sándor Nagy was nice as well. There's something in Sándor's voice/singing that annoys me and I don't think he's even that cute so I have sometimes problems in understanding what people see in him, but the role suited him very well and I have no complaints with his acting.
I really, really liked Judit Ladinek as the Narrator. Usually the Narrator's songs hurt my ears because I've never heard an actress who wouldn't shout the higher parts or otherwise sound quite horrible in them, no matter how pretty her voice normally is. Judit, on the other hand, had a slighly lower voice, she didn't shout and sung by her the songs sounded very good. She was the carrier of the obligatory Wide Hungarian Cleavage of the musical, but even looked from the 2nd balcony she didn't pop out of it, which I'm very happy about.
As far as I know, the Pharaoh only has one big solo in the musical. Because Hungarians apparently have to do always at least something differently than everyone else (and the theatre seems to have a habit of adding Elvis into every production possible), they had added another solo for him. It was something called Szívkirály, King of Hearts, and in it he apparently angsted how it's hard to rule the country, win the people's respect and so on. In the end of the song he randomly kissed the Narrator. Attila Barát was ýour basic good Pharaoh and he had some very funny moments, especially with Joseph.
The rest of the cast was great as well, especially one or two of Joseph's brothers. I have no idea who they were because I don't know which brother is which, but their acting, singing and stage presence were awesome. The child choir really impressed me, they danced and acted better than half of professional adult actors in Finnish musical productions.
The most impressive part of the production for me were the sets. I hadn't even noticed that the set designer was Kentaur, also the same genious who did Vámpírok bálja, but it really showed. Not in the style, because the two musicals are almost as different as two musicals can be, but (also) Joseph had some really clever stuff in it. Most movable set pieces were quite simple and had a bit school play-ish feeling in them, but they worked in the context extremely well. I had never imagined that I could laugh so much at a singing soft toy snake or a wooden camel on wheels, but everyone was practically rolling on the floor with laughter. The sets were in a way also very international; in the hunger angst song the brothers were in Paris and in the end they jumped into the Seine. The party after Joseph's "death" happened in a western village. I think it was Benjamin's Calypso that went from Hawaii to Mexico, and all this with really simple but clever paper front pieces hanging on the actors' shoulders. Some of the scenes were so absurd that you just couldn't help loving them. The production definitely didn't take itself too seriously.
My only complaint is that they didn't know where to end things. I don't necessarily need an encore of the finale of the first act, and the music is not that great that I'd like to listen to different encores and see an endless row of non-related dance scenes for about 25 minutes in the end of the show.
But go and see the production if you have a chance. It may be "just" light and fun without any deeper hidden meanings, but it knows it and takes everything out of it.
I'm endlessly amazed of how well Hungarian kids behave in theatre. There was a class of about 10-year-olds sitting around us, and they all sat quietly and nicely, concentrated on the play, and were dressed properly in suits or dresses. The only disturbance I experienced was when the little girl right behind me was so absorbed in the story that in an exciting part she leaned forward and accidentally grabbed my hair a bit. ;-)
Homepage of the production