New Zealand festival removes ‘Israel’ from Joseph musical

A New Zealand production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” sponsored by a local council has been forced to issue an apology to famed lyricist Tim Rice after removing “Israel” from the lyrics to one of the songs.

Festival organizers said they were doing so to keep things simple for students who would be performing, but did not explain why they found the word Israel in the play problematic.

The substitution was discovered by Twitter user, Kate Dowling, who noted on Friday that in the song “Close Every Door,” the line “Children of Israel” had been replaced with “Children of kindness.”

She wrote to the Wellington city council and to Rice, one half of the famed musical writing team, together with Andrew Lloyd Webber, to ask for clarification.

The changed lyrics were the work of the New Zealand capital’s Artsplash festival, in which 10,000 elementary school pupils take part. They distributed song sheets to those who were taking part with the changed lyrics to one of the best known songs.

The musical, written by Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, tells the biblical story of Joseph and the Israelites leaving Canaan and going to Egypt.

In both the biblical story and the musical, the word “Israel” does not refer to the country, but to Jacob, who was given a second name, and “children of Israel” means Joseph and his brothers.

Rice was unhappy at the “unauthorized” change, tweeting, “This is a totally unauthorised change of lyric by @WgtnCC. Plus it’s a terribly drippy and meaningless alteration.”

He tweeted to the Wellington City Council asking them to explain.

“Please explain Joseph lyric change: ‘children of Israel’ to ‘children of kindness’. Permission not given….

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