As the Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black musical, Tell Me on a Sunday, has been part of the musical theatre scene for over thirty years, we know it is a proven success. The musical has developed since it first appeared over thirty years ago, when it originally shared billing with a ballet, under the name of Song and Dance. It has now grown in to a successful show in its own right, with actresses such as Marti Webb, Sarah Brightman, Lulu, Faye Tozer, Denise Van Outen and Patsy Palmer taking on the role of Laura, in what is basically a one woman show.
So with such a pedigree, this extensive tour starring Claire Sweeney, who is no stranger to musical theatre, should be a sure fire hit. But on this occasion the performance just does not gel and Sweeney is hindered by Tamara Harvey’s direction.
In the programme notes, it is clear the intention on this tour was to act out the story, rather than just belt out the songs. Sadly this is where part of the problem lies, as Sweeney is too busy making coffee, getting changed (several times) or scattering petals on the bed, to allow her voice to carry the songs. With a score that contains such classic numbers, such as, “Take That Look Off Your Face” and the title number, often there is no need to add superfluous actions, they are strong enough to stand on their own. But sadly Harvey thinks even these numbers need plenty of on stage action to move them along, which they do not. While credit must be given to Sweeney for following the directions while coping with the songs, it is all just too relentless and I found myself willing her to just stand still and sing.
However, the long tour, and possibly the press coverage for her new TV show Candy Cabs, appears to have affected Sweeney. Surprisingly for an actress of her standing in musical theatre, there appeared to be little in the way of light and shade in her voice and the opportunities to really open and belt out the numbers never came. The brilliant number, “Unexpected Song”, seemed to be particularly problematic.
Janet Bird’s apartment set, with the band suspended above, fitted the bill exactly, letting us see inside the world of Laura, an English girl looking for love in America. But while wanting to care for Laura as she moved from one troubled romance to another, I could not. I found her actions to distracting to concentrate on the words and surprisingly Claire Sweeney not being able to convey the numbers, despite many being classic musical theatre songs.