Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much loved musical makes a welcome return to the stage after a twelve year absence and it is, understandably, as popular as ever. Conceived as a one-act song cycle, it tells the story of Emma, an ordinary English girl who journeys to America in search of love, experiencing a succession of romantic misadventures along the way.
The brilliant Jodie Prenger portrays Emma and this is no mean feat, considering the sheer amount of music and the huge responsibility of being the only character on stage throughout. It is a marathon of a performance and Jodie rises to the occasion magnificently; her endearing personality shines through right from the start and we instantly fall for this bright, optimistic and romantic lady who has been brave enough to pursue her adventures so very far from home.
The highlights of the piece is undoubtedly “Letters Home To England” during which Emma shares with us all the exciting news she is writing to her mum. It’s the perfect showcase for Jodie’s genuine comedic flair and Northern charm. Her comic timing is impeccable; she has ‘funny bones’ if you will, and in performers this is often coupled with an innate ability to portray absolute vulnerability and fragility. She achieves this wonderfully and it quite simply breaks our hearts. Several times over.
Paul Foster’s expert direction is totally effective in its subtlety – again, not an easy task with only one character on stage and hardly any spoken dialogue – but he gets the balance just right and never allows the direction to overshadow Emma’s character; he has a knack of making the tiniest gesture or use of prop convey so much emotion, and it complements Jodie’s acting beautifully.
The piece was written and first performed in the late 1970s, and musical director Francis Goodhand leads his band superbly throughout Lloyd Webber’s deliciously retro score, moving through pop, folk, funk and even a touch of Latin American to keep our toes tapping.
The beauty of TELL ME ON A SUNDAY is that there will not one person in the audience who cannot relate to it. We have all had our hearts broken, been cheated on, been hurt and disappointed by loved ones, and have all felt the joys of those first (and fleeting!) days of a brand new love. Emma’s story truly resonates with everyone – as I said to my companion as the tears ran down my cheeks, “I’ve been that girl so many times.” And therein lies its appeal.
This fresh revival is a joy and you will be whistling and singing the tunes at home for days afterwards.
Reviewed Monday 18th April at the New Wimbledon Theatre
TELL ME ON A SUNDAY
Touring until 8th June 2016