Reviewed by Demi Franks
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Mum, I know you’ll think I’m potty… but at last I think I’ve found him!”
Tell Me on a Sunday is Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s first (and often forgotten) musical love child. This bittersweet tale is the story of Emma, played by the powerhouse that is Jodie Prenger, as she travels across the globe, from London, to New York, to California and back, on a quest for long-lasting, meaningful love. A one hour, one-woman show, which brings to the surface all the nostalgia and sentimentality of falling in and out of love and all the wonderfully uncomfortable bits in-between.
Although maybe not as well known to a wider audience as some of Webber’s other works, musically the show does have some beautifully powerful numbers, including the stunningly heartbreaking title song Tell Me on a Sunday, which witnessing Prenger nail is an absolute treat and a stand-out moment.
Francis Goodhand musically directs with panache. But there are plenty of ‘Goodhands’ here in the band too who play beautifully throughout. In fact, in conversation after the interval, Goodhand describes this as musical theatre at its best – ‘no smoke or mirrors,’ just really rather good music, which is most definitely true. Its also nice to have the band onstage throughout, who are a very worthy backdrop to Prengers’ wonderful Emma.
Anyone familiar with Prenger, knows that she not only oozes bucket loads of charm and charisma, but is a formidable performer. Least not her vocals, which are effortless and consistently sublime during this hour long song-cycle; in fact they are Streisand-esq at parts (and I don’t say that lightly!) Her portrayal of Emma is full of subtlety and raw sentiment, as she carefully navigates us through a whole range of emotions, from hopeful to desperate, vulnerable to strong, taking us on the journey with her every step of the way. Prenger provides a wonderfully crafted, fully realised performance, as she commands the stage and without us even realising the hour has passed; she is a pure delight to watch.
Unusually and unique to this production, after the interval we are invited to re-join Prenger for what is a mini ‘An Evening with…’ style second act and proves equally as enchanting as the first. Bursting back onto the stage, Prenger welcomes us back with vigour and so much likability and humour, its (ironically) hard not to fall in love with her!
She spoils us with some more songs and answers some interesting questions from the audience. This evening Harry, 11, asks for any tips about entering the acting industry, to which Prenger quickly exclaims: “DON’T DO IT!” prompting fits of laughter from the audience; she most certainly has them in the palm of her hands. We are also introduced to the very talented Jodie Beth Meyer (Understudy Emma), who performs for us alongside Prenger, and whose voice is equally impressive. In a clever turn by the producers, this addition of an ‘Act 2’ really makes you feel like you’re making a night of it and getting your money’s worth!
It must be acknowledged that its been a tough old time for the arts and as such producers are in requirement of that much needed revenue boost, which performing in large-scale spaces can enable. However, this revival of the 2016 Watermill Theatre’s acclaimed production does at times seem a little lost in the Lyric theatre here in the Lowry. It’s certainly easy to see how this intimate, personal show lends itself better to a smaller-scale space and possibly would have been better suited to one of the smaller spaces that the magnificent Lowry has to offer.
Yes there are elements of the show that appear a little outdated, but the premise still remains universal and the message rather poignant as Prenger aptly reminds us towards the end of show, ‘Dreams Never Run On Time’ which hits us differently, especially with the world still in a strange, unsettling and unpredictable place. However, the audience are still hugely thankful to be back inside an auditorium watching and listening to live musical theatre and here Don Black’s clever, cute, conversational lyrics, are beautifully matched by Webber’s distinctive and indisputable music, both of which are perfectly complimented by Prenger’s show-stopping talent and makes for a lovely mid-week treat – never mind a Sunday!
Tell Me on a Sunday runs at the Lowry Theatre until Saturday 23rd October tickets available here.