Composer: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyricist: Don Black
Director: Paul Foster
Musical Director: Peter McCarthy
For one night only, the latest revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s well-known one-woman musicalTell Me On A Sundaytakes to the stage at Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Lyric space. The sole role is ably commanded by well-loved national television success story Jodie Prenger, whose portrayal of ‘Emma’ pushes this piece to the very pinnacle of its potential. With 24 complex and emotional numbers to deliver back to back within a single act piece, Prenger does not falter and consistently delivers a full performance that provides emotional nuances and adds vital depth and personality to the piece.
Despite only being a one-act production, this touring version ofTell Me On A Sundayoffers a second ‘act’ in the form of a Q&A session and additional music from Prenger and the show’s Musical Director Peter McCarthy. Audience members expecting a typical ‘post-show chat’ are pleasantly surprised, as Prenger and McCarthy create a charming and entertaining double act that offers insight into their experiences of the world of professional musical theatre as well as some additional numbers to get the audience’s toes tapping. A duet by Prenger and her understudy Jodie Beth Meyer is a welcome surprise that displays the vocal talents of both performers equally, while creating a rare opportunity for both lead and understudy to share the limelight.
Throughout this second, Act Prenger’s vivacious and fun-loving personality shines through, and she works the room with the polished charm of a seasoned veteran. Her rapport with McCarthy and Meyer is tangible, and she responds to questions provided by the audience during the interval in a hearty and honest manner that endears her to them completely. While Lloyd Webber’s show is the title event, this 30-minute ‘audience with’ is the real gem in this night of performance and is most certainly worth staying in your seat for.
The musical itself contains several well-known, catchy numbers that the audience leave humming along to. Unfortunately, this piece has not aged particularly well, with the character of Emma being depressingly dependent on men in order to achieve happiness. The plot itself is simplistically cyclical, with Emma moving through love-rat man after love-rat man, and without the ability to work off another performer there is only so far that Prenger could hope to create dynamism with this production. Prenger also works hard to make the most of the basic movement direction that can essentially be boiled down to a repetitive back and forth across the stage. The simplistic set was too specific to be effectively multi-functional and,as a result, it simply looked as if Prenger spent the whole show in the same room picking up the same bottle.
Fans of the show will enjoy this production and will find the additional second act with Prenger and McCarthy to be an entertaining bonus. Younger audiences coming to this musical for the first time, however, may feel that it is out of place in the modern theatre scene.
Reviewed on 5 June 2016, then continuing to tour | Image: Tristram Kenton