In an addendum to its 2014/2015 season, Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC) presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s one-act song cycle, Tell Me on a Sunday. It’s a one-woman performance that tells the story of a young English woman’s globetrotting misadventures in romance and self-discovery. A short theatrical apéritif, the play is a relatable tale of how relationships, whether romantic or platonic, whether successful or disastrous, influence personal, emotional metamorphoses.
The protagonist — referred to only as “the girl” — in the play emigrates from North London suburb Muswell Hill to New York City in an adventurous quest to find her authentic self. Her journey affords her various relationships, and she experiences the wide range of emotions associated with the romance of the young and eager. Structurally, Tell Me is both confessional and epistolary: The girl describes the details and consequences of her trials in life and love to her mother and friends in a series of letters. Each new experience is exciting and overwhelming, and helps the naïve girl mature into a self-possessed, confident woman. By surviving heartbreak, she learns to eschew the fear of the unexpected and enjoy life’s journey despite the ever-present potential for emotional damage.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s plays and music have a broad appeal, and his work is widely recognized in popular culture. Even to those who are not deeply interested in (or even aware of) the comings and goings of new and revived plays on and off Broadway, many of Webber’s musicals are ubiquitous in our society, including such favorites as Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera. Originally written as a miniseries for television, Tell Me on a Sunday is one of Webber’s lesser-known shows, and like its main character, it has been through several evolutions in form. ETC’s production features the story as a stand-alone one-act. The featured performer, award-winning actress Misty Cotton, is no stranger to playing strong, independent characters. Her previous roles include Ellen in Miss Saigon, Éponine in Les Misérables. She is familiar with Webber’s work, having also played the narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Tell Me On a Sunday is directed by Jamie Torcellini, another theater artist with a wealth of personal experience with Webber’s work: Torcellini was in the original Broadway production of Cats. Also featured is musical director Graham Sobelman, who has previously worked on other productions of Tell Me On a Sunday.
Tell Me on a Sunday runs through August 2 at the New Vic Theatre, 33 West Victoria Street. For tickets and information, call (805) 965-5400 or see ensembletheatre.com.