Tell Me on a Sunday – Review

by | Jun 16,16 | Music, Performance, Theatre

From the age of nine, I have had a real love for the show Tell Me On a Sunday, after singing the title song at a showcase way back when. Since then I have watched four different performances of it, the most recent production starring Jodie Prenger at The Hipprodrome, Bristol.

The one woman show follows the love life of Emma, a twenty-something British girl, who moves to New York in hopes of finding ‘the one’.   My immediate thought when getting into the theatre was that the set looked fairly simple, with a miniature raised stage in the centre of the hippodrome’s vast space, featuring a New York skyline, slightly revealing the on-stage band hidden behind it, and a simple set representing an apartment, with a couple of chairs, a table, chest of drawers and a coat hanger with various props prepared around the stage.

The main thing I wasn’t aware of before entering the theatre, was that the show was actually a massively condensed version of the original, to be performed in act one, with act two being left as a question and answer session with Jodie Prenger and Musical Director Francis Goodhand. This made the piece feel rushed. Though condensed, the show contained a new song and a completely re written song, featuring the same melody of ‘Somewhere, someplace, sometime’ but now named ‘Dreams never run on time’. Other changes were who the songs were referring to; ‘you’re very me, I’m very you’ has, in previous productions, shown Emma talking to the child of her new partner, in this version she was on the phone to said partner.

The show also seemed to begin in America (though it was a little unclear), cutting out a plane ride scene that shed a lot of humour in the other productions I’d seen.   And humour was a massive theme that was lost in this interpretation.  Emma, a quintessentially British character, did not reflect what I consider to be quintessentially British; humour and sarcasm, which the libretto is filled with but for some reason the Director, Paul Foster, decided not to emphasise. This made the piece as a whole quite negative, focusing on the heartbreak and anger Emma goes through and forgetting about the outgoing, fun personality of the character that attracts all these men in the first place.

Now, there is no denying that Jodie Prenger is a fantastic performer, and her vocals are a wonderful thing to hear live, but this part simply didn’t suit her voice. She is an Alto with a low, brassy belt (perfect for the Nancy role she won in BBCs I’d do anything) and this character is quite frankly a Mezzo Soprano role. She couldn’t reach some of the high notes, choosing to sing them softly, which I’m sure was the ‘character’s intention’, but also brought light to the fact that she wasn’t comfortable up there. Her accent was a little all over the place, starting in RP, then at times in her native Northern, and at other times American; all a bit confusing! She did, however, carry a huge amount of stage presence, holding my focus for the whole production, and she brought me to tears during her performance of ‘Nothing Like You’ve Ever Known’; a beautiful song in its own right and beautifully sung.

Overall, there was not enough contrast of emotion and I felt I slightly resented the character by the end of it due to her blatant naivety and gushing attitude; this is something I haven’t felt for the character in past productions. It was most definitely more about Jodie and less about the show itself, which I feel is becoming more and more of an issue in theatre. Is it not about the production anymore? Is it now more about the ‘star’ that’s hired to perform the role in an attempt to provide bums on seats? An interesting question, to be addressed more thoroughly at a later date.

Image reference here.