DIVA TALK: Marti Webb, At Last, On a Sunday A Journey in Song & Dance

By Andrew Gans
24 Jan 2014

Webb in Song & Dance, 1982

In an informative interview with Webb in the program for Tell Me on a Sunday, she discusses how both the original and current incarnation of the musical came to be. About the former she said, "I had just taken over in Evita in 1979, a week in and Andrew Lloyd Webber asked me out for dinner with Don Black the lyricist. They told me they'd been working on a new project and asked if I would like to be involved. They'd only written a couple of songs so it was a work in progress, and of course, I jumped at the chance! I then went to stay with Andrew at Sydmonton House where a car would take me to and from the theatre every night, and during the day we would work on the songs in the studio. The songs were written one by one, so it was very unusual for an artist to be involved in the creation process. Don Black said to me, a phone call can change your life and it's so true. There are moments in your life you would never have imagined what happened and then suddenly you're there and living it and it's very surreal."

About the recent run, Webb explained, "I was doing a concert at the Royal Festival Hall for Don Black earlier this year, where I sang 'Take That Look off Your Face' and 'Tell Me on a Sunday.' Andrew was there and told me it sounded exactly the same as all those years ago. Lewis Carnie from Radio 2 was also there and he said, 'Do you think you could do the whole piece?' So feeling rather exuberant and excited, I replied, 'Oh yes, we could do it with a small band and you could record it.' And he said, 'That's exactly what I was thinking of doing!' So that's how it all started."

Lyricist Black also provided some notes for the evening, writing, "Tell Me On a Sunday has been written more times than Graham Norton's cue cards! The changes began when the original star Marti Webb had finished her successful run and Lulu took over the role. Marti played the part of a girl from Muswell Hill, but everyone knows that Lulu is Scottish, so Muswell Hill became Glasgow. As the show went around the world, Muswell Hill became Sydney, Tokyo, Munich, etc. Also, with the passage of time people started to suggest that a girl writing home to her mother sounded dated and she should e-mail her. So, yet another round of rewrites to modernize the piece. The next phase of rewriting was to do with its length. We were asked to make it longer as it only lasted an hour — not enough for a complete evening." That elongated production, starring Denise van Outen, was staged and later released on CD in 2003; when Van Outen concluded her run, Webb stepped into the show, performing an amalgam of the original and revised versions.



About a decade ago, I had the chance to interview Webb by phone when she was starring in the West End production of the Tony-winning Thoroughly Modern Millie; click here to read that article. And, if you're lucky enough to be in London next month, Webb, due to ticket demand, will perform Tell Me on a Sunday for two weeks at the Duchess Theatre, Feb. 18-March 1.

For those unable to make the transatlantic journey, it was just announced that Webb's performance at the St. James Theatre was recorded for a BBC Radio 2 broadcast in April. The one-hour program will feature interviews with both Webb and lyricist Black with the full recording of Tell Me On a Sunday.

*

For tickets to Tell Me on a Sunday at the Duchess Theatre, visit nimaxtheatres.com/duchess-theatre.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

*

Diva Talk runs every other week on Playbill.com. Senior editor Andrew Gans also pens the weekly columns Their Favorite Things and Stage Views.