I have loved the title track to Tell Me on A Sunday for longer than I would like to remember. From the time my sixth-form singing teacher introduced it to me, it’s been one of those tunes that I’ve always been happy to be reminded of when it pops up on the shuffle setting.
Sadly, the production currently touring of the same name hasn’t left me with the same good memories. Richmond Theatre can be a funny place at the best of times – it’s a gorgeous building in a picturesque location, and is a sizeable venue which seems to have vast potential. Yet for some reason I have never seen a production there that excited me in the same way as even a mediocre example in the West End might. (Actually, I lie – my sister and I were extremely excited when we popped along to see Lee Mead in Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime, but that was just us unleashing the excitable and slightly embarassing teenagers within – no encouragement needed).
I would like to say something positive about this production. However, by the time the interval finally rolled around, I was so annoyed with the lack of genuine humour, over-use of bright blocks of colour in the staging and costumes (it just doesn’t work without the all-singing, all-dancing tongue-in-cheek style of Legally Blonde to create an excuse for such bad taste), plus the awkwardness of the lack of any form of on-stage companion, that even the appearance of my old favourite tune couldn’t rescue it.
The problem probably isn’t Sweeney herself – she makes the best of what she has been given to work with – but more that the whole concept of the show appears irrelevant. We live in a post-Bridget Jones world these days, but Sweeney’s ‘heroine’ left me thinking that old BJ (I hadn’t noticed the unfortunate initials before tonight) had had it good – at least she had mates and a bit of fun. All this woman did was wander around her apartment getting changed, moaning or fantasising about unreliable men and then singing the same song 4 times as she wrote emails to her mum on a horrific fuschia laptop. I had no idea how she had ended up in New York or why she hadn’t left yet. It was repetitive and dull, moving between songs and ’emotions’ with minimal explanations of whatever journey she was supposed to be experiencing.
The first run of TMOAS was in the early 80s, so it has some excuse for being dated, yet it has been extensively re-worked many times – including for Denise Van Outen in 2003 and again for Sweeney here. How much has been changed I’m not sure, but the fiddling appears to have drained out the heart that must once have existed in this show for the 1982 production to run for 781 performances.
So I’m afraid the report’s not good, and just to buck the trend I decided not to wait, but break the bad news on a Monday. From my bed. Where I would quite like to have been from the interval.