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

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24 Jan 2014

Marti Webb on the <i>Tell Me on a Sunday</i> CD cover
Marti Webb on the Tell Me on a Sunday CD cover

News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

In my experience it seems that true musical theatre lovers have at least one show that they will travel great distances to see, especially when a star performer is involved. My own list includes Evita, Sunset Boulevard, Gypsy, Sunday in the Park with George and Tell Me on a Sunday, which later became the first half of Song & Dance.

From the above list of musicals, the one I have seen most often is Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, having thoroughly enjoyed the Norma Desmonds (in no particular order — and some multiple times) of Patti LuPone, Elaine Paige, Betty Buckley, Glenn Close, Karen Mason, Petula Clark, Florence Lacey and Loni Ackerman. Another favorite Lloyd Webber score is the one he penned for the song cycle Tell Me on a Sunday, which began as a BBC concert and recording featuring Marti Webb, who, at the time, had just succeeded Elaine Paige in the original West End production of Evita. A few years later, following the suggestion of producer Cameron Mackintosh, Tell Me on a Sunday and Lloyd Webber's Variations would comprise the 1982 London musical Song & Dance. Webb repeated her work in the first half of a somewhat revised Tell Me, while Wayne Sleep led the dancers in Variations.

When Webb departed the hit production at the Palace Theatre, she was succeeded by Lulu, Gemma Craven and Liz Robertson, whose work all went unrecorded. Before the show closed, however, it was filmed by RCA/Columbia Pictures International Video for home video distribution starring  a then-mostly unknown Sarah Brightman. Although Brightman's soprano soared on such tunes as "Unexpected Song" and "Come Back with the Same Look in Your Eyes," she was, at the time, too inexperienced an actress to handle the show's dramatic and comedic demands. That said, the video does preserve the superb dancing of original star Sleep.

My history with Tell Me on a Sunday dates back to the early 80s when Channel 5 (before it became Fox TV) aired the Webb BBC broadcast. I vividly remember the commercials advertising the song cycle, but cannot recall why I didn't watch it at the time; thankfully, years later, I was able to secure a copy and have enjoyed viewing Webb's performance numerous times.


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