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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 7, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 19
Rare Webber musical Tell Me on a Sunday a cult favorite
Arts & Entertainment
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Rare Webber musical Tell Me on a Sunday a cult favorite

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Tell Me on a Sunday
ArtsWest
Through May 23


There's so much to like about ArtsWest's new production of the rarely staged musical Tell Me on a Sunday, by Andrew Lloyd Webber, that it seems churlish to even mention the show's weaknesses. So, first of all, the strengths:

For many years, Andrew Lloyd Webber was the hottest composer of theater musicals in London and then New York. His early works with Tim Rice - Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita were musical milestones. After breaking with Rice, his original lyricist, he created Cats using the poetry of the deceased T. S. Eliot. Then came Phantom Of The Opera and, even later, Sunset Boulevard. A number of minor shows interrupted the string of hits, and while some were hits in London (like Starlight Express), they were not as successful in New York. Some, like Aspects of Love, were personal favorites, but did not reach a sizeable audience. More recent musicals, the uneven The Woman in White, London's current Love Never Dies, and the mildly received sequel to the smash Phantom, suggest that his peak years have passed. But to many musical theater fans, his name alone is enough to make a show a hit. This is the case with ArtsWest's Tell Me on a Sunday.

The current one-woman musical started life as the first act of a theatrical hybrid, Song and Dance. Act One, now produced as a standalone work, was then called Song. Act Two, a long-discarded program of contemporary dance works without vocal accompaniment, was then called Dance. London audiences loved Act One, and when the show moved to New York, Bernadette Peters won a Tony Award for Best Musical Actress. Dance was often ignored, and many in the New York audience simply skipped out and went home at intermission. Since one of the lyrics to the song "Tell Me on a Sunday" uses the phrase "that same old song and dance," the musical continued to be presented as Song and Dance, even without the second-act dance sequence. Now, confusingly, the musical is often performed as Tell Me on a Sunday, after the show's best-known song.

Whatever its title, Webber's one-woman show, with lyrics by Don Black and Richard Maltby, Jr., is a cult favorite. Bernadette Peters' performance in the New York production remains a vivid memory for many, and the album remains a London and Broadway staple. It is rarely produced by a major musical theater company, like Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre or Issaquah's Village Theatre, since it is a one-character show that runs about 90 minutes. The ArtsWest production has been eagerly anticipated since it was announced last year. It is the final show in the 2009-10 season for the ambitious West Seattle company, and many musical theater fans will make a "must-see" visit to West Seattle for this rare chance to see a minor show by a major composer.

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Rare Webber musical Tell Me on a Sunday a cult favorite
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