Following Denise Van Outen's well received turn, Marti Webb returns to the show which was written for her in 1979. This brand new production has been expanded from its original format, one half of the hit show Song And Dance, to a whole evening's entertainment. But Webb is older than Van Outen and many thought that she would look ridiculous playing a young girl trying to find love in New York. Thankfully however additional tweaks have been made to this touring production taking account of the age difference.
Webb plays an English woman who arrives in New York full of optimism. As soon as the audience hear the opening bars of "Haven In The Sky" we realise that this is a fresh start for The Girl. She wants to put her past behind her and take what the big apple has to offer including "Speed Dating" (a humorous song about how soulless dating has become) and shopping. We follow the character's heartache, disappointments, and frustrations. The wonderful song "It's Not The End Of The World If He's Younger" sums up the character's plight.
Marti Webb truly excels herself in this one-woman show. Thanks to Jackie Clune's witty additional material, Don Black's poignant lyrics, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's haunting music she convinces the audience that she is back where she belongs. You feel that you are watching a star returning home. When she belts out the classic "Take That Look Off Your Face" you feel quite breathless. Webb also embraces the new material with gusto.
The simple but evocative set designed by Rob Howell shows The Girl's empty life beautifully from the single plane seat to the empty New York apartment. Andy Watt's marvellous childhood film sequence is quite touching as it mirrors The Girl's difficulty in becoming a step mum via the moving song "Ready Made Life/I'm Very You."
Christopher Luscombe's confident direction enables Webb to truly dominate the stage. You cannot take your eyes off her. My only qualm is that many of the themes in the show have been tackled countless times and this production is now in danger of becoming Shirley Valentine The Musical! But, that said Webb gives such a show stopping performance that producers should be tripping over themselves to cast her in a lead role. Until then the regions are lucky to have this lady on their stage.
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at the Palace Theatre, Manchester)
NOTE: The following review is from the shows original run at the West End's Gielgud Theatre.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's one act narrative song cycle for a solo female performer may be the smallest show he's ever written, but the score to Tell Me on a Sunday contains several of his very best songs. 'Come Back with the Same Look in Your Eyes', 'Unexpected Song' and 'Nothing Like You've Ever Known', written with lyricist Don Black, chart with a marvellous melodic as well as lyrical poignancy the romantic upheavals of a British girl at loose with her emotions in New York as she lurches from one failed relationship to another.
Originally written as a television special for Marti Webb, and subsequently performed by her onstage as the first half of a very literally titled evening Song & Dance that premiered at the Palace Theatre in 1982, it has now been re-worked, updated and slightly expanded, to stand on its own. New material by comedy writer and performer Jackie Clune brings the show into the world of online communication and speed dating.
A short but bittersweet evening about hope triumphing over experience, it takes one extraordinary girl to play this very ordinary girl, and there's been no more apt casting this year than to find Denise van Outen blasting the stage apart with a performance of startling vivacity as well as vulnerability as her character bounces back from a series of romantic defeats.
These include the relationships she has with Tyler King, a hotshot agent from William Morris who lures her to LA and two-times her; a 22-year-old photographer who walks out on her; and an already married man with a 9-year-old daughter, Lucy, who holds the promise of giving her a 'Ready Made Life' but isn't ready to give up his other life in one of this production's five added songs.
Van Outen is simply sensational (though it's sometimes difficult to credit that someone this beautiful could be so unlucky in love). But she holds the stage alone with the kind of commanding authority that, after her West End and Broadway appearances in Chicago last year, confirm the birth of a major musical star, and vocally more than holds her own against a demanding score that requires both intimacy and intensity of delivery. She combines the power belt of a Celine Dion with the lyrical sensitivity of a Karen Carpenter.
In a visually arresting production by Matthew Warchus that features designs by Rob Howell of video projections onto three large stage screens that surround a revolving platform, only Hugh Vanstone's lighting rig strikes an overstated note, looking like a spaceship coming into land.
- Mark Shenton