Tell Me on a Sunday is a short song cycle (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Don Black) about a young woman’s emotional journey through a series of romantic relationships. A one-woman show starring Misty Cotton, Tell Me on a Sunday is an entertaining, albeit single-minded, musical. The storyline is relatively unsophisticated, but Cotton’s lively performance and the show’s intriguing scenic elements make for a stylish and engaging production.
An addition to Ensemble’s 2014-15 season, Tell Me on a Sunday is a 60-minute theatrical novella. It focuses with distinct intent on the woman’s failed romances with a variety of typically unavailable men (the younger man, the rich playboy, the otherwise emotionally involved family man). The woman moves from England to New York to Los Angeles and back to New York again, though it’s never made clear what she does with her life other than date. In terms of character motivation and story direction, this lack of complexity prohibits even the most substantive of evolution, and the play treads water. Tell Me on a Sunday is sweet, but verges on repetitive since every segment is essentially identical: girl meets man, falls in love, falls out of love, and moves on to the next segment. Without a narrative anchor, the character seems frivolous and her plight trifling.
Luckily, Webber and Black were aware of the story’s restrictions, and variations on the musical and narrative themes are well limited. The purpose of this show is not to tell an epic tale of love and self-discovery but to entertain an audience with appealing music and a plucky character. In that sense, Ensemble’s production succeeds: Cotton is energetic and lovely, and delivers an acting and vocal performance appropriately spirited and effervescent. Scenic design by Francois-Pierre Couture is consistently impressive: Tell Me on a Sunday is undoubtedly chic, with a colorful visual scape featuring shapes and projections reminiscent of the vibrant mood of late 60s-era cinema. Despite it’s superficial nature, Tell Me on a Sunday is an easily digestible, enjoyable hour at the theater that showcases the work of talented theatre artists.