It started out as a recording, became the first half of a successful West End show – and now Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tell Me On a Sunday has matured into a full length one-woman musical.
Claire Sweeney has grown with it; it takes a special kind of performer to hold the stage alone for nearly two hours, and turn 24 demanding songs into a story laden with humour, pathos and drama.
Well, not quite alone; she has the company of a five-piece live band. But she is unequivocally the star of this jewel of a show.
For those of us who were around in the 1980s, most of the songs are familiar; Take That Look Off Your Face was a top ten hit, and the achingly poignant title song has become a standard. A handful of new ones and updated lyrics to some of the original score extend and develop some of the story strands as well as making the most of Sweeney’s powerful voice and highly watchable acting skills.
One emotion after another flows across her mobile face; and her accent swings deliberately between mid-Atlantic near-American when the songs are directed at her procession of unsuitable lovers, to wry Scouse humour when she e-mails her mum back at home.
Tell Me on a Sunday is at Sheffield’s Lyceum till Saturday, May 14.