New Zealand arts festival apologizes for altered lyrics after removing 'Israel' from musical

A local arts festival in New Zealand removed the word 'Israel' from its production of the musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," causing lyricist Sir Tim Rice and composer Andrew Llyod Webber to interfere: "Joseph is an innocent story straight from the Bible and these people in New Zealand thought we were making statements about Israel and Palestine – bonkers."
Sir Time Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber Photo Credit: Reuters/ Channel 2 News

An arts festival in New Zealand was recently criticized by well known lyricist Sir Tim Rice and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber after they removed the word 'Israel' from their production of the musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." The festival, in which several schools from Wellington, New Zealand were to participate, decided to change the line "Children of Israel are never alone" to read "children of kindness are never alone."

Rice first heard about the alteration after someone wrote to him on Twitter and asked him if he had approved the change. Rice confirmed that he was definitely not informed: “They were doing the Joseph songs and they changed 'Close Every Door', the last line, 'Children of Israel are never alone', they changed it to 'children of kindness are never alone', which was obviously being politically correct or something.”

"[They] interpreted the song completely wrongly, and what a rotten thing. And I only heard about it because someone tweeted me and said 'did you approve this change?' I said I did not approve it and I hadn't heard about it. It was quite a big thing, it was for all schools in the Wellington area in New Zealand," he said.

"I mean Joseph is an innocent story straight from the Bible and these people in New Zealand thought we were making statements about Israel and Palestine – bonkers," Rice said. 

Lloyd Webber also added his two cents, telling The Observer that “Tim is quite right. You cannot reinvent a Bible story. That song is a serious moment and a key point in the show. It is about the connection Joseph suddenly makes with Israel. Tim was paraphrasing the Bible and it should be kept that way.”

The local council in New Zealand has since issued an apology and announced that it would cancel the change, adding that the “community coordinator made an error in judgement.” The coordinator himself responded to the incident, and said that “action has been taken over the weekend to ensure that the original song words are all reinstated with immediate effect.”



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