As a fan of musical theatre since childhood, I’ve grown up listening to musical soundtracks ranging from classic Hollywood movie musicals to longstanding West End productions such as Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera. I was first introduced to Andrew Lloyd Webber 15 years ago when his nationwide search for Maria von Trapp made it onto prime time television. Skip forward two years to 2008 and I watched Jodie Prenger win Lord Webber’s search for Nancy on the BBC TV show ‘I’d Do Anything’. If you’d have told that 12-year-old theatre fan that one day you’ll see Jodie headline an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, I’d never have believed you, but it did in fact happen on Tuesday night thanks to the team at The Marlowe Theatre.
Musical legends Lord Webber and Don Black’s Tell Me On A Sunday is at The Marlowe Theatre this week, starring Jodie Prenger in the lead role of Emma. With performances until Saturday 24th July, I was invited to the Marlowe’s press night for the show on Tuesday evening, getting to see the first night of the musical’s week-long run here in Canterbury. With the lifting of restrictions earlier this week, it was lovely to be able to take my Mum along to the performance. She is the person who introduced me to musical theatre when I was young and without her encouragement, I would never have been such a fan of Lord Webber’s music and productions. A one-woman musical jam packed full of songs, we were so excited to see Tell Me On A Sunday and hear Jodie sing ‘Take That Look Off Your Face’ live.
Tell Me On A Sunday originally started as a collection of songs before being transformed into a one-act musical in the late seventies. Theatre performer Marti Webb was cast in the title role and ended up providing vocals for the 1980 album of the same name, taking the musical’s most notable hit ‘Take That Look Off Your Face’ to number 3 in the UK charts. Over the years the format of the musical has been altered many times and new songs have been added, but it is the 2016 revival at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury that is considered the definitive version. The 2021 UK tour starring Jodie Prenger follows the same approach as the 2016 production, pairing the one-act show with a second act Q&A session with Prenger.
Set in the 1980s, Tell Me On A Sunday follows the life of Emma: a British lady from Muswell Hill who emigrates to the USA with hopes and dreams of finding romance in the Big Apple. Based in New York City for the most part, Tell Me On A Sunday is a first person account of Emma’s time in the USA, juggling her unfortunate relationships and aspirations to get a green card. Apart from writing letters to her mother and a few one-sided phone calls, Emma is the only character that you actually meet in the production. The audience follows her from New York to Los Angeles after she meets a film producer called Sheldon Bloom, but Emma quickly learns that tinseltown isn’t much fun when Sheldon is working all of the time. On her return to New York, things don’t improve for Emma and the remainder of the one-woman show follows her journey of self-discovery, as she recovers from heartbreak and returns to her original self: the woman who arrived in America with so much hope.
Apart from leaving the stage for rapid costume changes, Jodie was on stage for the entire act. Performing over 20 songs, the amount of stamina required for the show is nothing short of impressive. She played the role of Emma with ease, singing every line of Don Black’s lyrics with conviction and emotion. There was a stillness in the theatre every time Jodie started to sing, amplifying her vocals across the auditorium.
The second act was much more informal with Jodie out of character and the arrival of the Musical Director Francis Goodhand on stage. Francis read out a series of audience questions for Jodie to answer and we were also treated to some additional renditions of popular musical theatre songs. Jodie’s understudy Jodie Beth Meyer joined the duo for a couple of tracks and their voices complimented each other perfectly. This section of the show was really interactive and gave the audience an opportunity to learn more about the people behind the production.
The evening ended with a definite ‘pinch me’ moment as I got to talk to Jodie at stage door after the performance. She was so down to earth and happily signed my Tell Me On A Sunday programme. It was such a special end to a lovely evening of theatre at the Marlowe.
The Tell Me On A Sunday cast and crew did such a wonderful job transforming The Marlowe Theatre into 1980s New York. From start to finish I was in awe at the production’s attention to detail, ranging from the mini Chrysler building to the lighting and musical arrangements. There’s still time to get tickets for the show before it leaves The Marlowe Theatre at the end of the week. I can’t recommend this revival of the classic production enough.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx
*Our tickets for Tell Me On A Sunday were gifted in exchange for a review of the performance.