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: