Review by David Munro
THE original version of Tell Me On A Sunday was written
in 1979, while Andrew Lloyd Webber was in New York for the rehearsals
Then it was a rather bleak little song cycle, about an 'Essex'
girl in the States and her unsuccessful and unhappy love affairs.
Performed by Marti Webb at the 1979 Sydmonton Festival, and later
on television, it was then put on the shelf, where it remained
until a companion piece was sought for a dance programme based
on Lloyd Webber's Variations on a theme by Paganini.
Originally, Cats had been intended as Variations'
stable mate, but when this was found to be unworkable, Tell
Me On A Sunday was substituted.
At one time, so I am led to believe, it was considered as a curtain-raiser
to Cats but this idea was also abandoned.
The two pieces were first performed at the Palace Theatre, in
April 1982, with Marti Webb again performing Tell Me On A Sunday,
now re-worked and adapted for the stage, and Wayne Sleep and his
company performing Variations, under the omnibus title
of Song and Dance.
During the run, it was again re-vamped with new songs for Sarah
Brightman when she took over in 1984 from Marti Webb.
Further work, including a revision of the lyrics and story line,
was undertaken for the 1985 Broadway production of Song and
Dance, with Bernadette Peters.
Finally, revised again and brought up to date with a slew of
contemporary references and five new songs, Tell Me On A Sunday
became a full-length theatrical evening for Denise van Outen in
This, hopefully, definitive version has come a long way from
the original song cycle for Sydmonton.
Now, the girl is a predator who goes to the States looking for
men/love but still not finding fulfilment, simply self-deception.
The wistful, rather negative airs of the original, are now underscored
by harder and more rhythmic orchestrations and the new songs emphasise
the girl's desire to make good sexually. One song in particular
- Speed Dating - sets the tone of the evening.
It is now touring with three different ladies, Marti Webb, Patsy
Palmer and Faye Tozer taking their turn with the role of the girl.
I had hoped that Marti Webb would be playing Wimbledon,
as it would have been wonderful to see how the original singer
coped with the rewritten production.
But it was not to be; in her place. we were promised Patsy Palmer.
whom I never realised until now could sing.
Certainly, her roles on the television never gave any indication
that she was capable of sustaining a singing role of some 90 minutes
Alas, I shall never know the truth, as last night, Miss Palmer
was taken ill just before curtain up, and in her place we saw
and heard her understudy, Sorelle Marsh, and from then on, all
thoughts of Miss Palmer evaporated.
This was the classic cliché - understudy steps in at the
last moment and makes good.
From the moment she launched into Take That Look off Your
Face, albeit somewhat nervously, one felt the evening was
in safe hands.
As it progressed, and she became more assured, there was no
question but that this was not an understudy's performance but
one she had thought out and made her own.
Time, and one hopes many more performances, will smooth the rough
edges, some of her delivery of the point lines could have been
sharper, but overall this was a night to remember.
Her voice is strong and was capable of belting out the more raunchy
numbers and yet still giving full effect to the more wistful and
I had wondered once or twice during the first half whether it
would last the evening, but after the interval she came back confident
and in full voice to give the final moments of disillusion and
self-doubt maximum effect.
Her singing of the final song of hope for the future, Somewhere,
Someplace, Sometime, was radiant and I felt that she was showing
the way to adding a new classic to the Lloyd Webber canon with
Whenever I hear it again in the future, I shall associate her
with it and remember the pleasure she gave me and her audience
And please the audience she did; sensibly, she was allowed to
give an encore and she chose Take That Look Off Your Face,
proving how well she could sing it once her initial nerves had
Sorelle Marsh, I salute you and hope that you will be allowed
to take your place in the ranks of leading ladies where you belong.
Clearly, her success was in some measure due to her director
Christopher Luscombe, whose unobtrusive staging, a turntable with
some furniture and props, enabled her to take centre stage believably
and without effort.
The rest of the settings comprised large, neon-edged panels or
screens - designed by Rob Howell and Hugh Valentine - which allowed
for projections of her memories and scenes highlighting the action
At one particularly bleak moment, the panels disappeared, leaving
her hemmed in by brick walls, emphasising her isolation and loneliness,
an obvious but nonetheless effective piece of staging.
While, therefore, I did not get specifically what I had gone
to Wimbledon to see, I was very pleased with what I saw, and I
will tell it for all to hear for many a month of Sundays.
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber; Lyrics, Don Black (additional
material by Jackie Clune). Director, Christopher Luscombe; Production
Design, Rob Howell; Lighting Design, Hugh Vanstone; Sound Design,
Mick Potter; Musical Director, Robert Chalmers.
CAST: Sorelle Marsh, replacing Patsy Palmer.
Produced by Bill Kenwright.
New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1QG.
Evenings Mon 22nd - Sat 27th March 2004, 7.30pm. Matinees Thurs.&
Box Office 0870 060 1827.