NOTE: Marti Webb took over from Van Outen on 14 Jan 04
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Tell me on a Sunday’ was originally staged as part of ‘Song and Dance’, a short collection of musical song and dance routines that ran successfully in London for three years and also enjoyed a season on Broadway. That was twenty-one years ago, and now Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Don Black have revamped the piece into a 75-minute show, with new material and updated lyrics.
The one-woman show tells the story of an Ilford woman who moves to Manhattan in search of love only to have her heart broken again and again and yet again, and beyond this we learn nothing more about the character, not even her name. She has a few girlfriends back home in Essex who she sends e-mails to, informing them of her latest man, and a mother who she writes to tell of her latest break up. What her job is and how she supports herself in Manhattan is not explained, and the only thing this bimbo appears to do with her life is chase after men and fall in ‘love’ with the most wretched specimens. Unless she is an appendix to some man this woman sees herself as particularly worthless and downcast. A more sexist and one-dimensional view of women it is hard to picture.
She first falls in love with an agent, then a photographer and finally a married man. Each time she believes she has found Mr Right, only to be disappointed. The lyrics to this inept tale are at times embarrassingly puerile such as “Tyler King calls all the shots, Tyler King gives me the hots” and “You’re allowed to bonk, but keep off the plonk”
The only thing that keeps this show from being an out-and-out flop is the presence of the sassy, gorgeous Denise Van Outen, (who reached musical frame for her portrayal of Roxie Hart in Chicago). She has a powerful stage presence and exuberates confidence. Her personality sparkles throughout the show and she has a magnificent singing voice that complements the show’s rueful ballads.
However, it is the vitality of Van Outen’s personality that makes her appear miscast for the role. The idea that this beautiful vivacious woman would behave so forlorn because some man was mad enough to ditch her seems totally incredulous. Van Outen captures her characters’ impish playfulness and seethes with resilience at the men who betray her, but she never looks wounded or vulnerable.
Even at only 80 minutes in length and the rapturous Denise Van Outen for company, I still found myself looking at my watch to see when this show would end!
Next Review by Jonathan Richards
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s one-woman musical is given a new lease of life in this garish production by Matthew Warchus with additional material by Jackie Clune. However, it is Denise Van Outen as the solitary Ilford girl living in New York who really makes the show. While Lloyd Webber’s pleasant music is often synthetic and some of Black’s lyrics are shallow and clunky, Van Outen’s performance gives the introspection of the character which the material is so desperately lacking. Her singing voice may lack some colour and depth, but her acting ability copes seamlessly with her character’s [limited] emotional journey and ranges from hilariously funny to deeply touching, and even brought a tear to this audience member’s eye.
Elsewhere, Rob Howell’s revolving props and blue neon with Hugh Vanstone’s fruity rock concert-esque lighting seem brash and insensitive next to Van Outen’s very human performance, which is well worth the ticket price.
MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "Although it has some good songs, it seems a slight piece that is scarcely rendered more plausible by the presence of the sassy, sexy Denise Van Outen." RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Lloyd Webber's music is laughably trite. Van Outen seems a nice girl, but her singing and acting are very average." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, " She’s [Van Outen] at her best when Don Black’s often adroit, witty lyrics allow her to be sharp, funny and derisive about men." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "It's trite, it's sentimental, it is profoundly second-rate." NICK CURTIS for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "It feels old. Without Van Outen, I suspect it would feel even older."
External links to full reviews from popular press