The story is based on the Biblical story of Joseph, found in the Book of Genesis. It is set in a frame
in which a narrator is telling a story (sometimes to children,
encouraging them to dream). She then tells the story of Joseph, another
dreamer ("Prologue," "Any Dream Will Do"). In the beginning of
the main story Jacob and his 12 sons are introduced ("Jacob and
Sons"). Joseph's brothers are jealous of him for his coat, a symbol
of their father's preference for him ("Joseph's Coat"). It is
clear from Joseph's dreams that he is destined to rule over them ("Joseph's
Dreams"). To get rid of him and prevent the dreams from coming
true, they attempt fratricide, but then they sell Joseph as a slave
to some passing Ishmaelites ("Poor, Poor Joseph"), who
take him to Egypt.
Back home, his brothers, accompanied by their wives, break the news
to Jacob that Joseph has been killed. They show his tattered coat
smeared with his blood - really goat blood - as proof that what they say
is true ("One More Angel in Heaven"). In most productions, one
brother usually sings the solo; the song often segues into a celebratory
after the bereft Jacob has tottered off the stage.
In Egypt, Joseph is the slave of Egyptian millionaire Potiphar. He
rises through the ranks of slaves and servants until he is running
Potiphar's house. When Mrs. Potiphar makes advances, Joseph spurns her.
Potiphar overhears, barges in, sees the two together - and jumps to
conclusions. He jails Joseph ("Potiphar"). Depressed, Joseph
sings Close Every Door - but his spirits rise
when he helps two prisoners put in his cell. Both are former servants of
the Pharaoh and both have had bizarre dreams. Joseph interprets them.
One cellmate, the Baker, will be executed, but the other, the Butler,
will be returned to service ("Go, Go, Go Joseph").
The Narrator talks about impending changes in Joseph's fortunes ("A
Pharaoh Story") because the Pharaoh is having dreams that no-one
can interpret. Now freed, the Butler tells Pharaoh (acted in the style
of Elvis Presley) of Joseph and his dream interpretation
skills ("Poor, Poor Pharaoh"). Pharaoh orders Joseph to be
brought in and the king tells him his dream involving seven fat cows,
seven skinny cows, seven healthy ears of corn, and seven dead ears of
corn ("Song of the King").
Joseph interprets the dream as seven plentiful years of crops
followed by seven years of famine ("Pharaoh's Dreams Explained").
An astonished Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of carrying out the
preparations needed to endure the impending famine, and Joseph becomes
the most powerful man in Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh ("Stone
the Crows"). In the 2007 London revival, Pharaoh has a new song
(King of my Heart).
Back home, the famine has caught up with Joseph's brothers, who - led
by the brother Naphtalie - express regret at selling him and deceiving
their father ("Those Canaan Days"). They hear Egypt still has
food and decide to go there to beg for mercy and to be fed, not realizing that they will be dealing with Joseph ("The Brothers Come
to Egypt"). He gives them handfuls of food and sends them on their
way, but plants a golden cup in the sack of his brother Benjamin
("Grovel, Grovel"). When the brothers try to leave, Joseph stops
them, asking about the "stolen cup". Each brother empties his sack, and
it is revealed that Benjamin has the cup. Joseph then accuses Benjamin
of robbery ("Who's the Thief?"). The other brothers, though, beg
for mercy for Benjamin, imploring that Joseph take them prisoner and set
Benjamin free ("Benjamin Calypso").
Seeing their selflessness and penitence, Joseph reveals himself ("Joseph
All the Time") and sends for his father. The two are reunited
("Jacob in Egypt") for a happy conclusion. The show ends with two songs ("Finale:
Any Dream Will Do (Reprise)/Give Me My Coloured Coat"), and for
curtain call in some big productions, a rock/disco medley of most of the
musical's major numbers ("Joseph Megamix").