Touring – reviewed at Leicester Curve
The Watermill Theatre’s 2016 production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s one-woman, one-act musical has been revived for a UK tour. Tell Me on a Sunday (1979) centres on Emma, an English woman navigating the ups and downs of love and loss in Manhattan.
Originally performed in the West End in 1982 as part of the double bill Song and Dance, and perhaps once a curio of Lloyd Webber’s work, Paul Foster’s production is fresh, stylish and beautifully carried by Francis Goodhand’s musical direction and a star turn from Jodie Prenger.
Lloyd Webber’s music and Don Black’s lyrics prove to be a songwriting masterclass. There is something rose-tinted about Tell Me on a Sunday: Emma’s idealistic belief in love is largely unwavering; the English girl in search of the American Dream is a romantic idea; and Black’s playful lyrics, particularly in the title song, show Emma’s inclination towards optimism.
But this is balanced with the turbulence of emotional conflict, accepting heartbreak and being let down in songs such as the show’s anthem, ‘Take That Look Off Your Face’. What I liked about Foster’s production is that he cleverly keeps the period setting without it feeling dated. Whereas others might be tempted to drag the setting into the present which could jar with the music and story, the effect of keeping it in the 1980s feels romantic and classy. After all, the experiences of the highs of love and lows of loneliness are timeless.
The audience instantly warms to Emma thanks to Prenger’s strong performance. She captures the wide-eyed sense of adventure from being in New York whilst also convincingly staying grounded with a sense of British wit and cynicism. Lines about the size of sandwiches in NYC and Black’s lyrics about Los Angeles in ‘Capped Teeth and Caesar Salad’ remain as funny as they are true. She plays the show’s conversational style very well and maintains Emma’s sense of hope. This is all played out on David Woodhead’s gorgeous design of Emma’s stylish apartment and a mini New York skyline, skyscrapers and Brooklyn Bridge becoming part of the furniture.
Overall, the intimate song cycle of Tell Me on a Sunday followed by a Q&A with Prenger and further musical numbers in the second act make for a great night out!
Tell Me on a Sunday plays at Leicester’s Curve until 16th October and then tours the UK until 20th November. For further dates, please visit Tell Me On A Sunday (tellmeontour.co.uk)
Jodie Prenger in Tell Me on a Sunday. Credit: Tristram Kenton
‘Fresh, stylish & beautifully carried by a star turn from @MsJodiePrenger’: @nobillington has a great night out at @tellmeontour. #TellMeOnASunday #musicals #theatrereviews