Left - Jolene Anderson. Photo - Branco Gaica
After much negative publicity and several bad decisions the “national musical theatre company” Kookaburra, finally premiered in Melbourne with Tell Me on a Sunday. The choice of material and lead performer is however a strange one.
Originally written in the early 80s, this one-person show by Andrew Lloyd-Webber (music) and Don Black (lyrics) is perhaps better known to audiences who may have seen it as part of Song & Dance.
While not a great or even memorable piece of theatre, the show tells the tale of a single girl who moves to New York, to re-discover or perhaps re-invent herself and hopefully find love again (after a stream of broken relationships). The show’s posters play on the Sex and the City theme.
But even with updated references for a contemporary audience, Tell Me on a Sunday remains rather bland, requiring the energy of a powerful stage presence to drive it forward and maintain audience interest.
Jolene Anderson is very likeable, attractive and has a pleasant though limited singing voice. Commercial casting has given her a challenging opportunity, and she certainly tries hard to meet that challenge. Best known for her television work on All Saints and last year’s winner on It Takes Two, Jolene’s transition to musical theatre is however not quite as successful as say Georgie Parker’s about a decade ago (moving from the same television show into Crazy for you).
Any lack of strong stage presence and experience stands out rather clearly in a show where you are the only performer on stage. Director Peter Ross and Kookaburra would have been far wiser to utilise Jolene’s skills in a more suitable show where she could be supported by an ensemble.
Although looking uncomfortable and moving rather stiffly at the start, Jolene does have moments in the show when she is quite effective, mostly during the softer, slower ballads (Unexpected Song and Tell Me on a Sunday).
Mark Thomson’s designs serve the production well with good use of flat screen monitors setting the locations, while Martin Kinnane’s lighting gives the show a great visual look. Questionable is the occasional use of pre-recorded backing music and backup singers. The onstage band would have been sufficient.
Overall, this is not a production which will generate too much enthusiasm from any quarter, but it is an opportunity for Melbourne audiences to check out and support a company passionate about musical theatre.
Tell Me On A Sunday
by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Dates: September 2 - 14
Tickets: On Sale May 6
Bookings: Ticketek 132 849