Monday, 25 October 2010

Tell Me On A Sunday, Assembly Hall Theatre, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Tell Me On A Sunday
Assembly Hall Theatre
Royal Tunbridge Wells

25th/26th October 2010

Performance seen 25th October


Claire Sweeney

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tell Me On A Sunday was not a totally new experience for us as we had seen the 2004 version with (ex-Steps) Faye Tozer at the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne.

However, it is by no means the same production although the core theme and much of the original music remains the same.

It's still a story of love, or rather one woman's disastrous attempt at keeping a lover.

The end of one doomed relationship, the fascination of a toy boy as a short lived replacement, followed by the 'easy' option of taking somebody else's husband together with ready made child.

All the scenarios are a recipe for disaster and as our loveless heroine is far away from her Merseyside roots, living in New York, there's many emotional messages back home to mum.

Clearly as literally every single word in the show is sung it needs one supremely confident and talented female artist to deliver an emotionally charged performance.

Back in 2004 Faye Tozer was superb. With a relatively simple set (rotating to take her to different places) It was emotional throughout. From what I can recall (before the days of my reviews) there were very few lighter moments.

Many changes have been implemented since those shows.

Messages home to mum were previously written. Now our fame and love seeking girl has the luxury of a laptop so it's emails instead. Nice little touch that the 'Microsoft Windows' tune plays every time she updates her mother.

The set is now much 'busier' with multiple costume changes playing a big part. The bar area, bedroom and lounge area are permanent on stage features with some temporary 'locations' delivered by 'conveyor belt' along the front of the stage.

Still on the subject of the set, it had the steepest rake (slope) I have ever seen. Claire did say that it's actually one rake on top of another, adding to the gradient. From a health and safety point of view it looks like an accident waiting to happen and indeed she admitted she had a few stumbles. It's quite a challenge keeping props in place too. The rather excellent orchestra must wonder which is more likely to roll on top of them in their pit. A sofa, a table, or Sweeney herself?

Some have declared the set as over fussy and even cluttered. Personally I liked it. Tozer's set had been designed more for a refined young lady. Sweeney's set is geared more to a trendy fun loving girl.

With Claire having to handle the complexities of so many changes of outfit whilst still singing makes it more challenging for her and more interesting for the audience to see if she can quickly find the armhole in that dressing gown!

As our character tells her story her outfits change appropriately. This includes a rather nice bikini sequence on a sunbed, some bouncing on a bed in a little blue nightie and another lingerie moment. I think that may have been a basque-ish little number. I can't quite remember, I think I must have gone blind by that point!

I'm not going to reveal Claire's age here but there is many an actress of a similar age who would not look half as good as she did tonight in such a diverse range of costumes.

The Gorgeous Claire Sweeney Tell Me On A Sunday taken on a MondayNow I loved all this and I thought it did add to the story. But Claire has been subject to some scathing reviews by a few official critics who strangely all seem to be female and of a similar age to her. But that's where the similarities end, especially in the looks department. I got my wife to read one two star review which she agreed had "green eyed monster" written all over it. No real review at all, more of a criticism of tacky outfits, rose petals and Sweeney's DD bra (how she knew the size goodness knows).

So Claire has her knockers (you just had to know I'd throw that in!) but to be fair they are few in comparison to the great reviews she has received across the country from both male and female official critics.

So what was my verdict?

Well I was impressed when we saw Claire Sweeney in the musical Shout a few years back. I think she acts well, sings with passion and emotion and yes she looks fabulous. She didn't disappoint me in the slightest tonight either in any of those departments.

I've already mentioned that the core story and music is basically the same but there have been changes and updates to suit Claire's Liverpudlian accent.

Whilst she can confidently sing without her accent I think it was a nice touch to slightly change the story and lyrics to give our unnamed character a link back to her home city.

I won't detail the changes here but the track playlist is in a very different order than it was both in 2003 in the West End and on tour in 2004. A few numbers have also been dropped and this is logical given the subtle changes to the original story.

The current production of Tell Me On A Sunday is still a very emotional story. But it is very noticeable that there are now more lighter moments giving Sweeney the chance to raise a smile or even a small chuckle from the audience.

I enjoyed the fact that this production seemed to have been engineered to display Claire's great acting talent as well as her superb singing ability.

As far as Claire Sweeney, the band, the music, the set and the presentation is concerned it's a 5 star production.

So why 4 stars? Because everything has to be taken into account and that includes the cost of seeing the production and its actual running time.

Unfortunately the same thing was being said by practically everybody as we left the auditorium "Too expensive and too short, terrible value for money."

Is this justified?

Well as I said since the 2003 production a few tracks have been dropped this has resulted in a shorter running time. Unusually there is no interval (which surely can't please theatres from a bar income point of view?). There is actually no need for an interval now as the whole show is now only 80 minutes. 7.30pm start 8.50pm finish. Now by anybody's standards that is a very short show.

But paying £25 a ticket for an 80 minute event did not impress so many people at this venue.

It feels short too. Taking the interval out might have made it feel worse but then a 20 minute second half would not have felt right either.

£17.50 might have been a more reasonable top pricing point.

It is such a shame. Claire Sweeney and the band put on such an excellent show only for people to leave with bad memories for something that is outside their control. It seems unfair.

For the same price (£25) on Friday Tunbridge Wells Theatre goers can enjoy The Seachers, Gerry and The Pacemakers, P J Proby and Chip Hawkes for over 2 hours.

With government funding cutbacks the I Value The Arts campaign now has over 14000 supporters. But if theatre production companies don't get something as vital as pricing right you may be turning people away from theatres of your own accord without the government making matters worse. If people like something they'll probably tell somebody else, If they don't like it they'll tell many more.

Perhaps it's time for the estimated running times to be clearly published on theatre literature as it is on a DVD for a movie? Theatre lovers can then be more selective as to whether they are getting good value for money in these difficult times.

So overall a super show with an impressive performance by Claire Sweeney only marred by its short length and high price.
4 out of 5 for Tell Me On A Sunday

Print This Entry

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you in advance for your show comment or feedback