ACTRESS Marti Webb will officially reopen the Kenton Theatre in Henley by reprising her one-woman show
ACTRESS Marti Webb will officially reopen the Kenton Theatre in Henley by reprising her one-woman show Tell Me on a Sunday.
Webb, 71, was the original star of the production which was written especially for her by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Don Black.
Her appearance on September 11 and 12 will mark the completion of a two-month refurbishment of the theatre’s foyer.
It will be 35 years since Webb first played the role in a one-off performance at the Royalty Theatre, London, which was filmed for BBC television.
An album of the same name was also released and reached number two in the UK album charts. Its lead single, Take That Look Off Your Face, reached number three.
In January last year, Webb again performed the show, initially for a week at the St James Theatre, London, before another three weeks at the Duchess Theatre due to its popularity.
Webb said: “I was nervous last year as I hadn’t performed it as a single piece for 35 years, but I am really looking forward to it.
“I do think the show is funnier now as I do it in the same style as if I am that 35-year-old woman, which gets a few more laughs as I am no longer 35. But when I perform now I don’t think about my age I just do it.”
She says that although the show has been adapted through the years, at the Kenton it will be the original.
“We did have emailing your mother rather than writing a letter to her,” Webb said. “We obviously did not have mobile phones originally either â?? life is quite different now. But the show will be the original. We have changed nothing.”
Webb says that by sticking to the original it retains its charm for audiences.
“I don’t think it ages,” she said. “People still get themselves into trouble with relationships â?? I don’t think that changes â?? and people don’t change either. People still go out with people who are not right for them. There is always one that breaks your heart.”
Webb says that at one of her last shows there were three generations of the same family in the audience.
“They all loved it on different levels,” she said. “The album had been handed down from daughter to daughter. It just goes to show that it is timeless. Don Black is so clever and so witty and people see how funny it is because they identify with it.”
Webb has been to Henley once before when she performed with an orchestra at the Henley Festival and she is looking forward to performing at the Kenton.
She says: “I have heard that it is a lovely little theatre. It is nice being in a smaller area, rather than having 2,000 seats, because you are closer to the audience. It is more intimate.”
Webb came to the attention of Lord Lloyd-Webber when she auditioned for Evita. She became the understudy to Elaine Paige, performing two nights a week in preparation for succeeding her as the star.
Lord Lloyd-Webber asked her whether she would be interested in collaborating and she was later invited for a meal with him and Black to discuss the potential of a song cycle inspired by the story of a friend who had moved from London to the USA to begin a new life. This became Tell Me on a Sunday.
Theatre producer Robert Mackintosh, the brother of Sir Cameron Mackintosh, has helped stage the production at the Kenton.
He said: “I did a production of Tell Me on a Sunday last year with Marti and its life goes way back to its origin when it was commissioned by Andrew and Don as a television performance and was one of the first shows that was taken into the theatre from television. It has been through various versions but it has been extended from the original as it was only 55 minutes long.”
Mr Mackintosh says he was contacted by Ed Simons, the chairman of trustees at the Kenton, about three months ago to see if he would bring the show to Henley. He said: “Ed came to the opening night of my theatre three years ago and we kept in touch.
“He told me that he was having this big refurbishment and was reopening in September and he would love to do my production. He asked me if I could put it together because it would be just right for the local demographic. I called Marti up and asked if she fancied doing it and she said she would love to.”
Mr Mackintosh says the production will be better than ever.
He said: “It was written for Marti’s persona and, although it is a few years on from the original, there is something about Marti that moves it on with the time. She makes it work as a slightly older lady and audiences love it. It is like she has grown up with it. It is timeless.
“To a certain extent, as the years have trickled past, the experiences that Marti has had in her life and career mean that her performance is richer than it was before. It is not scripted, insofar as it is just the music, but now the lyrics will have a subtly different meaning.
“Marti still has a great voice and timing. There are little moments where she almost pokes fun at the fact she is not 27 any more. It is almost a reflection of 30 years and I think the music stands the test of time.”
He explains that there will not be a big set but it will feature a “glorified deck chair”, a hat stand and a telephone, adding: “It is going to be great fun. Hopefully Don will come down as he loves to see all the versions and Marti is in it as well.” For his part, Mr Simons describes the production as a “coup” for Henley.
He said: “I went to the opening night nearly 40 years ago. Robert has been down to the Kenton a number of times and he chatted to me about it and he loved the idea so we managed to pull it off.
“The music is just wonderful. It is a very poignant piece as the show centres around the song Tell Me on a Sunday, which is about the break-up of a relationship. It is one of those wonderful pieces of entertainment which, if you are lucky, comes around once in a decade.”
Mr Simons has seen the show three times. He said: “Marti is a star â?? she oozed stardom and had a great impact on stage. She was mesmerising, you couldn’t take your eyes off her. That’s the effect she has on you.”
He added: “What this show does is demonstrate the calibre of artists that are prepared to come to the Kenton and perform. We’ve had Michael McIntyre and now Marti Webb. We are now seriously on the road map. We needed something special to open the foyer and this is it.”
Mr Simons says the date of the production has meant a tight deadline to get the foyer finished but it is “on track”. He says the opening night will have a gala feel and will be followed by a dinner at the Hotel du Vin.
He joked: “I now feel that now I’ve been on a poster with Andrew Lloyd Webber, Robert Mackintosh, Don Black and Marti Webb â?? that’s it, I have reached the pinnacle!”
To book tickets, call (01491) 575698 or visit www.kentontheatre.co.uk