Tag Archives: Don Black

Tell Me On A Sunday

Tell me on a Sunday

★★★

Cambridge Arts Theatre

Tell Me On A Sunday

Tell me on a Sunday

Cambridge Arts Theatre & UK Tour

Reviewed – 30th September 2021

★★★

 

“Jodie Beth Meyer steps up and her performance does not disappoint”

 

It is forty years since Marti Webb sang Tell Me on a Sunday as a TV special before the piece reached the stage as one half of Song and Dance, described then by its composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Don Black as ‘a concert for the theatre’. The work has undergone several revisions since then but is still essentially a short one-woman song cycle, the length of an LP album. The current tour usually exploits the TV popularity of singer Jodie Prenger by including a Q and A session with added musical surprises as a second half, but this performance axes this due to the indisposition of the star.

The gauze curtain, superimposed with a New York skyline, lifts to reveal a very basic 1980s apartment and behind it a row of illuminated miniature model buildings – Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Twin Towers (Designer David Woodhead). Emma enters in wedge sandals and a denim jacket. She is an unassuming girl from Muswell Hill living in New York seeking a husband and a green card. And that’s the plot, as she proceeds to sing us the story of her series of boyfriends and their inevitable breakups.

With advertised singer Jodie Prenger unavailable, understudy Jodie Beth Meyer steps up and her performance does not disappoint. The opening number Take That Look Off Your Face immediately wins over this audience and sets the standard for the evening. With her eyes twinkling and a smile upon her lips every lyric of every song is crystal clear, Jodie’s enunciation impeccable. Aided by amplification, she does not need to push her voice – this is not opera – and her style is understated rather than projected. Her high register rings out pure and glorious, a delight to listen to. The wide range required in some numbers, though – It’s Not the End of the World (if I Lose Him / he’s Younger / he’s Married), shows up some weakness at the lower end of this singer’s register.

A five-piece onstage band (Musical Director Francis Goodhand) – keys, reeds, cello, bass & drumkit – partly obscured behind the model New York skyline, provides the orchestration. Sounding a little thin at times they may have benefitted from some support from the mixing desk, but it is delightful nonetheless for this music to be performed live.

Director Paul Foster moves Emma naturally around the small set, sometimes seated, sometimes not. She goes off stage between some numbers to reappear in a change of costume. There are numerous props for her to handle – a handbag to rummage in, a floppy hat (with an unintended problematic brim), letters to read and write, a bottle of whisky. On occasions, this incessant fiddling is all rather too busy and some further static moments would have been beneficial.

The four Letters Home to England document the character’s advances in her life and provide some humorous moments much enjoyed by this audience. Other highlights in Jodie’s performance are the sensuousness she shows within The Last Man in My Life and some deliciously sleazy movement in Sheldon Bloom. Both could have been pushed further, along with some greater show of anger in Let Me Finish and Let’s Talk About You. The title song is the standout song of the evening and Jodie smashes it, sobbing through the lyrics whilst maintaining beautiful musicality.

If the largeish audience is disappointed that the intended Jodie is not available, they do not show it and after this short one-half of an evening would happily have welcomed the replacement Jodie back onto the stage for more of the same.

 

Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Tristram Kenton

 


Tell me on a Sunday

Cambridge Arts Theatre until 2nd October then UK tour continues

 

Previously reviewed at this venue this year:
Copenhagen | ★★★★ | July 2021
Absurd Person Singular | ★★★ | September 2021

 

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Aspects of Love

Aspects of Love
★★★★

Southwark Playhouse

Aspects of Love

Aspects of Love

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 10th January 2019

★★★★

“The performances marvellously capture all the aspects of love that the libretto tries to convey”

 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Aspects of Love” was met with a mixed reception when first written and produced in the eighties, and it is indeed one of his more curious affairs. Its own meandering inception and evolution seems to match the rather convoluted plot, based on the autobiography of David Garnett, Virginia Woolf’s nephew. Originally mooted as a film for which Webber and Tim Rice were to contribute some songs, it morphed into an unrealised collaborative cabaret with Trevor Nunn at the helm, before lyricists Don Black and Charles Hart came on board to help steer the vessel in some sort of definite direction. Sandwiched between “Phantom of the Opera” and “Sunset Boulevard” it probably suffered from a lack of focus and some have said it lost its way.

Katie Lipson has untangled the rigging in this revival, first produced last summer at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, and put it well and truly back on track; also showing us that there is more to this musical than the hit song, “Love Changes Everything”. For there are some truly striking melodies which, by stripping the accompaniment back to just two pianos and percussion, are now allowed to shine through the otherwise lumbering sung-through dialogue.

The story begins with the character of Alex (Felix Mosse) who is looking back over his life. It then flashes back to 1947 when he fell in love with Rose Vibert (Kelly Price), the star of a touring acting company. The young Alex convinces the older actress to spend two weeks with him at his Uncle George’s unoccupied estate. When Uncle George (Jerome Pradon) returns unexpectantly and finds himself attracted to Rose, the complications begin. Complications not just for the characters within the story though; but for the producers too. The trick now is how to keep the audience engaged as the characters canoodle their way through the doodling plot, occasionally thrown off kilter by sudden shifts in time.

But Lipson has the Midas Touch when it comes to musical theatre and has once again assembled an impressively strong cast. The performances marvellously capture all the aspects of love that the libretto tries to convey. Jonathan O’Boyle’s confident direction allows the detail to be seen through the myriad scene and time changes. And if you don’t really care for the plot you certainly care about the characters.

Despite the heavy-handed feel of the piano accompaniment (which some tweaking on the sound desk could quickly cure) the vocal performances are beautiful and searingly moving. Mosse’s intimate yet unsentimental rendition of ‘Love Changes Everything’ is a delightful detour from the original, but the highlights of the show include Price’s heart rending ‘Anything But Lonely’ and Pradon’s understated opening to the Ivor Novello tinged ‘The First Man You Remember’.

But beyond this central love triangle is where the interest really lies. Madalena Alberto, as the free-loving Giulietta is compellingly watchable; Eleanor Walsh, as the fifteen-year-old Jenny, gives an assuredly mature performance that eschews the uncomfortable Lolita-style caricature that is often associated with the role. And Minal Patel, as actor manager Marcel, softly steals the smaller stage time he is allowed with his velvet voice.

It is a tricky show that explores perhaps too many variations on the theme of love. But it seems that this intelligent cast has picked one aspect, made it their own, and let it shine. Like the diamond in the mire, this clear-cut production lets the emotion glisten.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


Aspects of Love

Southwark Playhouse until 9th February

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Country Wife | ★★★ | April 2018
Confidence | ★★ | May 2018
The Rink | ★★★★ | May 2018
Why is the Sky Blue? | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018
The Sweet Science of Bruising | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Trench | ★★★ | October 2018
Seussical The Musical | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Funeral Director | ★★★★★ | November 2018
The Night Before Christmas | ★★★ | November 2018

 

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