Tell Me on a Sunday – The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics: Don Black

Director: Paul Foster

Reviewer: James Garrington

Tell me on a Sunday was, according to its composer, an experiment.

Wanting to try something smaller after the major works he had written with Tim Rice, Andrew Lloyd Webber teamed up with Don Black to create a one-hour piece for television, broadcast in 1980. Since then, Tell Me on a Sunday has had a number of different versions, including being the first act of a full-length piece teamed with Variations called Song and Dance, to becoming a full-length show in its own right.

This incarnation takes the show back to its roots, as a one-act piece set in New York in the early 1980s and made into a full evening by being teamed with an audience question and answer and a handful more songs. Here, Jodie Prenger takes us on the journey of an English girl in New York, looking for love. Starry-eyed and full of optimism, she nevertheless encounters many heartaches along the way.

There is no doubt that Prenger is a very popular figure among audiences, ever since she won the TV casting show I’d Do Anything, and for good reason. While her voice may not feel entirely secure at times, she brings the role to life. Although this is a one-woman show, it contains a number of other characters – notably the men she meets – and Prenger and director Paul Foster manage to bring them all, quite invisibly, onto the stage too so the audience is left in no doubt what’s going on as we lurch through the highs and lows of successive relationships. There are some moments of real tenderness here, along with well-controlled stormy break-ups – and the running theme of the letters home to her mother, which allow for some good comic touches too.

The show contains a number of well-known songs, some of which became chart hits too including Take That Look Off Your Faceand title trackTell Me on A Sunday. Lloyd Webber’s score is paired with lyrics by Don Black, who is certainly a class act in the lyric department Together they bring some moments of real poignancy and reflection – and Prenger makes the most of the opportunity, with some good acting through song, especially in the quieter moments. The piece is performed on a small, well-designed New York skyline set by David Woodhead with effective lighting by Howard Hudson bringing quite an intimate feel to the production.

After the interval comes the question and answer session with audience members having a chance to ask questions before the show via social media, hosted by musical director Peter McCarthy. Opening with Secret Love – Prenger has, after all, only just completed a long tour of Calamity Jane – she has an infectious personality and great sense of humour as she takes the audience through a series of apparently off-the-cuff anecdotes. Here we also get a chance to meet her understudy, Jodie Beth Meyer, who has a beautiful voice as they share a duet of Another Suitcase in Another Hall from Evita –surely someone to look out for in the future.

An engaging and entertaining evening at the Belgrade, for one night only – but it’s on tour until June, and well worth catching.

Reviewed on 10 March 2016 | Image: Tristram Kenton

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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