Songs from Musicals: #49, “Any Dream Will Do,” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Honorable mentions:  “One More Angel in Heaven,” “Joseph’s Coat”

There’s a part in Gangs of New York where Happy Jack sees Johnny cradling a music box he intends to give to Jenny, smacks it out of Johnny’s hand with his billy club, listens to it briefly, and then says, “Not my favorite tune.” This is more or less my  opinion of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

As much as I like musicals, it’s ironic that I’ve only ever been part of one. Sadly, it was Joseph, and it was a concert performance that my youth choir did at church. I don’t know if it would have been improved with acting or sets or costumes or whatever. It might have made the experience that much more depressing, really; we were, unsurprisingly, not so great.

“Any Dream Will Do” is probably the best song from the musical, one of the rare pieces in the show that isn’t beholden to Tim Rice’s bizarre lyrical choices. (Choose your favorite: “His astounding clothing took the biscuit/Quite the smoothest person in the district” or maybe “Letting out a mighty roar (Auuuugh!)/Potiphar burst through the door!” or, if you’re good at counting, the twenty-nine-color-deep run in “Joseph’s Coat”) The downside is that “Any Dream Will Do” barely means anything – as far as nonspecific songs go, it’s a frontrunner across genres – but it’s pretty. It’s almost certainly the most hummable tune of the musical, and as evidenced earlier, this was not Tim Rice’s finest lyrical effort. (Amusingly enough, Tim Rice will show up again, and at the #2 spot, no less.

What makes a good opening number, anyway? For a show like Joseph, where the entire audience (especially in church!) is thoroughly aware of what will happen, something like “Any Dream Will Do” is fitting. A musical’s first number should almost certainly set the tone for the rest of the show. That could go any number of ways. It could be as specific as John Adams contra mundum in 1776‘s “Sit Down, John.” It might telegraph the rest of the show, like “Happiness” does in Passion. Maybe it’s supposed to actively introduce a guiding principle of the show, that can be told to you in one word. Or maybe it’s just a mood: I like “Fugue for Tinhorns” in Guys and Dolls for this. “Any Dream Will Do” functions similarly in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat: it seems to be meant to be comforting, to be non-aggressive and pleasing, the one vanilla soft-rock tune in a musical that’s best known for making a list of musical styles and assigning one tune to each. “Any Dream Will Do” is not a great song, but it’s hard to argue with its utility.

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