More years back than this reviewer cares to remember he went down to London to see Tell Me On A Sunday starring Marti Webb. Back then the show was brand new and one half of an evening’s entertainment called Song & Dance. The second half featured dancer Wayne Sleep and his company dancing to Variations which was based on the work of 18-19th century violin virtuoso Niccolo Paganini. It was a memorable and electric partnership and Webb and Wayne came together at the dance finale to sing ‘Unexpected Song’ together. Like many musical theatre enthusiasts the album is a well worn favourite in the ever growing collection.
As an opportunity arose to review the touring Jodie Prenger version on for one night only at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall one’s sense of anticipation was high. The packed house confirmed that this reviewer is far from alone in his passion for this piece.
Jodie Prenger is on stage for just over an hour not only beautifully delivering the familiar songs with great clarity and élan but she takes her character Emma emotionally deeper than the original. There are some new lyrics and new arrangements and songs in this version of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s Tell Me On A Sunday that combined with the original set make for a stronger, more emotionally satisfying piece. Prenger’s wonderful performance supports that notion 110%.
The work itself retains its late 1970’s feel and is the better for it and concentrates the action on the actual bravery of a young woman trying to make it alone in The Big Apple and attain her Green Card to allow her to work in the USA and gain a relationship along the way. As one of the final song titles indicates ‘Dreams Never Run On Time’ and neither do her succession of dates with men.
The fabulous New York apartment set (designer David Woodhead) is just right with its famous buildings lit up dependent on mood. Director Paul Foster allows Prenger mini breaks and fills in with atmospheric soundtracks of traffic on the busy NYC streets and at the airport. Despite the enormous width of stage at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall she is soon back on the set to continue the musical story of English woman abroad, Emma.
Musical director for this portion of the tour is Francis Goodhand. Live musical support is given by AJ Brinkman (Bass Guitar/Double Bass), Jenny Chilton (Flute/Sax), Moira Hartley (Cello and assistant MD) and Neil Rowland (Drums/Percussion).
The second half of the show finds Francis Goodhand on piano; Jodie Prenger again in fine voice singing and cheerfully braving the questions written up and offered on cards by the audience before the show. From these we get to hear about her training, her fun stories of things going slightly wrong in Oliver and Calamity Jane and a West End trial (pre Oliver) performance in Les Misérables that sent her spinning in circles on the revolve!
One cheeky reviewer asked if she enjoyed reading her reviews. This same reviewer hopes that this one pleases.
Jodie Beth-Meyer (understudy to Jodie Prenger) joined Prenger on stage for a generous introduction and a duet of ‘Another Suitcase – Another Hall’ from Evita.
The evening ended with Prenger dedicating her final song ‘Unexpected Song’ to the memory of Victoria Wood who sadly passed away today.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe