Tell Me On A Sunday has gone through many revisions over the years, and the current touring version is classed by Andrew Lloyd Webber as the ‘definitive’ version. Now the composer should know best but it is hard to see his reasoning. Back in 2003 he made a similar proclamation when Denise Van Outen took on the role and that production took Lloyd Webber and lyricist Don Black’s 80s song cycle and brought it bang up to date. The story flowed and was the perfect vehicle for Van Outen as the English woman taking the huge leap to head of to America to find love.
This production sees ex-Brookside star Claire Sweeney take on the role. It is a perfect vehicle for a musical theatre actress as Marti Webb, Sarah Brightman, Van Outen and the string of actress who have tackled the show over the years will attest; unfortunately, while a valiant attempt, Sweeney fails to deliver.
Claire Sweeney has a powerful voice, and it must be exhausting touring this show as a string of mainly back to back one nighters but there are several pitch issues during the piece. The girl in the story may go on a journey across America but the biggest journey of the evening, sadly, is Ms Sweeney’s vocal deviations from the score. While some numbers such as Unexpected Song and the title number work well, she seems to struggle with some of the higher notes in other numbers and also battles to keep pace with the orchestra in others.
The cohesion of the piece isn’t helped by the revisions to the script. While earlier versions give us a clear dramatic flow of lost love and loneliness, this latest version never fully engages with the character, resulting in a string of unconnected scenes. Tamara Harvey’s direction doesn’t help with a constant parade of costume changes providing a lazy way of differentiating scenes without any real emotional connection.
Although the logistics of touring for one night engagements does limit set potential, things are not helped by staging the show on a dimly lit rag bag collection of clothing-strewn furniture that looks like the before shots of Claire’s 60 Minute Makeover TV Show.
Tell Me On A Sunday is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most evocative scores. Sadly this disappointing production does little justice to the score.