Single-Song Showstopper: “Song of the King”

To purchase the Original Broadway Cast Recording of JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, click on the image above.

The theme for April 2012 at Musical Cyberspace is “Single-Song Showstoppers”, a series of big numbers sung by a featured characters in a show – typically their only solo, although they might sing minor bits and pieces elsewhere – each of which raise the roof.

Today’s single-song showstopper is “Song of the King”, from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The song is sung by Pharaoh, a role that has been played by Tim Rice (on the so-called concept recording), Gordon Waller, William Parry, Tom Carder and Robert Torti.

The Setup: Chained and bound, afraid, alone, Joseph is taken to Pharaoh, who wishes to have his dreams interpreted. In the song, Pharaoh explains what’s been keeping him up at night.

The Song: “Song of the King” is a simple, straightforward piece of storytelling that takes the form of a rock ‘n roll pastiche in a tribute to “the King” – Elvis Presley. The Elvis song it recalls most easily to my mind is “Teddy Bear”, which makes me smile and it’s fun to notice how Pharaoh has the reputation of being a fierce and intimidating leader and then turns out to be something of a teddy bear – milder, sweeter and more charming that he might first appear. Only one example typical of Rice’s sloppy, “good enough” craftsmanship rears its head in this song:

Well the thin cows were as thin
As they had ever, ever, ever been
Well this dream has got me baffled
Hey, Joseph, won’t you tell me what it means?

Never mind the plural, the vowel sounds don’t match at all. The same combination repeats itself in the corresponding verse about the corn. Of course, the error appears less obvious in performance than on paper and Pharaohs have been whipping up a frenzy in audiences with “Song of the King”, just as Elvis did, for four decades or so now. After all, a great performance and imaginative staging are what will make this song a solid showstopper in any production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on “Song of the King”. Click on the comments link at the end of this post and share them with us!

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