Friday, 10 January 2014

Review: Tell Me On A Sunday, St James

“Tell each other to find all we’re looking for, and more”

Despite its enduring success as (arguably) one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest works, in collaboration with lyricist Don Black, the great and good never quite seem to believe that the original hour-long pleasures of Tell Me On A Sunday are sufficient on their own. In its first staging, Marti Webb delivered it as one half of Song and Dance; the revival with Denise Van Outen was extended with a suite of new songs which awkwardly tried to update it; and now as Webb makes a return to the show at the St James Theatre, it finds itself lumbered with a first-half West End showcase which never feels like anything more than unnecessary padding. 

And it really is unnecessary – the hour-long show is perfectly encapsulated, whipping through the trials and tribulations of an Englishwoman in New York who is running away from a broken heart in the UK but finds herself unable to escape romantic drama. And Webb owns its every emotional contour – the aching sadness of the title song, the yearning romance of The Last Man In My Life, the anguished dexterity of Let Me Finish. Lloyd-Webber’s song-writing is rarely better than here and Black’s lyrics have a well-honed simplicity which allows for a directness of feeling, especially when given such transcendental grace as here.

Though there will always be people for whom this is the first experience of the show, this should undoubtedly be considered a chance to revisit a piece of musical theatre history, rather than anything new. Some may see Webb’s return as a slight indulgence but if she is perhaps no longer physically the young woman as written, emotionally and vocally she more than nails the hope, hesitancy and heartbreak of anyone falling in and out of love. And, should any producers be listening, this is proof positive that a show can be an hour long and still do everything that it needs to. So get yourself over to the Duchess next month to catch its two weeks there. 

Running time: 2 hours (with interval) 
Booking until 12th January, transfers to the Duchess 18th February-1st March

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