Marti Webb received rapturous applause as she stepped onto the stage for the opening night of Tell Me On A Sunday at the St James Theatre, and a standing ovation as she stepped off. The desired objectives of this revival have been successfully met and the enthusiastic, adoring audience – mouthing every one of Don Black’s lyrics and, more than occasionally, singing aloud too – were happily transported back twenty-four years, to the album’s release. This week-long event has already proven so popular that it has secured a transfer to the Duchess Theatre for a limited two week run from the 18th February. You might say that, for some, Webb returning to this role is the equivalent of Robbie re-joining Take That, for example. A big deal.
So, this astute team of producers have spun gold with a crowd pleaser, indubitable as any, but it doesn’t go unnoticed that there is more to Tell Me On A Sunday than is being delivered on this occasion. The hour-long one-woman musical is a story of love, heartbreak, anticipation and disappointment, containing some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best known songs and Black’s moving lyrics. The musical itself is stonking – it is no wonder that it is so greatly loved – and if having Webb back in the role is one reason to be excited then having Simon Lee’s charismatic band on stage with her is another.
What comes as a surprise however, is the overall poor quality of this production which lacks imagination and attention to detail. The clumsy staging and lazy use of (wonkily) projected images hinder the arc of a piece that is potentially very moving. It feels like a concert of the album and not a 2014 theatrical revival of a resonant and relevant musical.
Saying that, the important thing is this: it has been ten years since Webb last performed Tell Me On A Sunday. Before the curtain, the ecstatic audience were treated to an encore in the form of the joyous Unexpected Song which gave us the opportunity to properly congratulate Webb – a role-model in career longevity.
*** (3 stars)
Runs until 12th January 2014