Some musicals have thousands and thousands of people. OK, hundreds and hundreds. Would you believe in the double digits? Others make do with small casts (like Toxic Avenger). Some only have two. Then there is the rarer musical that only has one. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black‘s musical, Tell Me On a Sunday (FB), which was our first show on Sunday at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), is one of those rare musicals.
You can read the Wikipedia page for the story that led to this piece. Briefly, it started as a one-act after Evita, first with Tim Rice, then Don Black. First performed in 1979, it was later combined with a ballet called Variations to create the musical Song and Dance. That’s where I first heard the piece: the London recording with Marti Webb doing the performance. It was reworked in 1985, eventually landing on Broadway with Bernadette Peters playing the role. Hint: Let Peters be Peters; don’t have her do a fake accent. It doesn’t work. It has been revived a few times since then. Many don’t like the character being portrayed. Still, it remains a great one-woman piece, and I’m surprised that it isn’t done more.
The story being told concerns Emma. She moves to New York for her boyfriend, who cheats on her. She dumps him, moves in with a friend. She finds another man to latch on to — a Hollywood producer. This prompts a move to Los Angeles. That relationship fails for a similar reason, so she goes back to New York. This time she meets a salesman and the relationship begins again… only to fail when she discovers his cheating. She finally gets her green card, and starts dating a married man. She does this one just for fun, no relationship, and then is faced with him at her door having left his wife. She decides she doesn’t want him either, and is left figuring out what she wants in life.
Not a particuarly likable character. Not a character who one would want to be. There’s lots of inner exploration, comments on the superficiality of Americans. In some ways, I wonder if the piece is a commentary on the state of American relationships. Still, the music is melodic — and if you listen closely, you’ll hear a little bit of Variations sneaking in (you’ll also hear a little in School of Rock).
Unsurprisingly, this show depends on its star. For Fringe, Emma is played by Shannon Nelson (FB). Nelson does a spectacular job capturing the emotion, vibrance, and spirit of the character. She sings extremely well, having only a little trouble with the extreme low note in “
When You Fall In Love” (oops) “Unexpected Song”. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. Calvin Remsberg (FB)’s direction worked well, especially in handling the lack of formal set pieces and the need for on-stage costume changes. Matt Valle (FB)’s choreography worked quite well.
The lighting design was by Brendan Hunt, and was perhaps the most problematic. My hope is that the lighting problems were due to this being a preview, but there were times where the actress was in the dark, or was hunting for the light. This should be corrected in subsequent productions.
I found Tell Me On a Sunday enjoyable, and I think you will as well. There are four more performances of the show: June 11 @ 3:00 PM; June 15 @ 9:00 PM; June 19 @ 11:00 PM; and June 20 @ 10:00 PM. Performances take place in the Sacred Fools Theatre Black Box. Tickets are available off Sunday’s Fringe Page. Go directly to the tickets tab by clicking here.
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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.
Upcoming Shows: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):
- ✓ Sat, 6/4: Alien vs. Musical (230p) (✒) • Code 197 DWB (Driving While Blewish) (400p) (✒) • Toxic Avenger: The Musical (600p) (✒)
- ✓ Sun, 6/5: Tell Me On A Sunday (600p) (✒) • All The Best Killers are Librarians (800p) (✍)
- Sat, 6/11: Pali Hi All Year Picnic • Einstein (400p) • The Boy from Oz – the Celebration Theatre (FB) (800p)
- Sun, 6/12: Titus Andronicus Jr. (700p); and then the Tony Awards when I get home.
- Sat, 6/18: 30JJ or Bust: The World is My Underwire (1130a) • Lamprey: Weekend of Vengeance (200p) • Mark Twain Answers All Your Questions (600p) • The Old Woman (800p)
- Sun, 6/19: Sweet Love Adieu (100p) • All Aboard the Marriage Hearse (400p)
- Sat, 6/27: Squeeze My Cans (400p) • My Big Fat Blond Musical (830p)
- Sun, 6/28: Temple Israel Reunion • Hamlet (Las Vegas Style) (630p)
Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, a HOLD for Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.