Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Evening of two parts that will tug at all your hearts

JODIE Prenger is becoming increasingly well known on our TV screens as a presenter and performer.

JODIE Prenger is becoming increasingly well known on our TV screens as a presenter and performer.

She first shot to fame when she won the part of Nancy in Oliver! in BBC One’s I’d Do Anything.

And if you go to see the latest production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s Tell Me on a Sunday, currently running at The Watermill Theatre in Bagnor, you will find out exactly why she won the competition. Her performance is riveting.

Tell Me on a Sunday is a cross between a one-woman show and a song cycle that has a clear storyline running through it.

The very clever set from designer David Woodhead immediately places you in New York, where our English heroine Emma now lives, and the story carries you through her turbulent and often tragic series of love affairs as she journeys through life seeking happiness and fulfilment.

And herein lies one of the secrets of the success of this production, as it is safe to say that every single member of the audience could identify with many of the emotions and experiences that she goes through.

Prenger’s performance as an actress is an absolute tour de force as she so ably conveys the emotion of each failed love affair, the poignance of the comfort she gets from writing letters home to her mother, and her touching resilience as she resolved to be optimistic about the future.

But even such a stunning performance as this pales into insignificance beside the sheer brilliance of her vocals.

She has the most astounding voice — which she needed to use to its greatest potential with the sheer vocal acrobatics that the part demands.

The songs are complex yet wonderfully tuneful in a wide variety of musical styles that demand an ability to perform jazz, ballads, Latin, boogie and even comedy to equal effect — and she pulled it all off with extraordinary accomplishment.

One of Emma’s lovers is a film producer, and in the very funny Capped Teeth and Caesar Salad (which Prenger admitted after the show is one of her favourites) she sums up his lifestyle with the lines “they’ve eaten nothing fried since Elvis Presley died” and “a 60-year-old man who thinks he’s Peter Pan”.

Yet the ballads, with lyrics like “just remember I’m the kind that cries” really tear at the heartstrings, and it was a relief at the end of the show to find that her resilient personality pulls her through it all and helps her to face her future with hope and optimism.

The second half of the evening takes the form of a question and answer session with music, and here Prenger showed her talent to really connect with her audience in a down-to-earth way.

After paying tribute to the brilliant musicians who had accompanied her throughout, she introduced us to her musical director Peter McCarthy (on piano) and her understudy Jodie Beth Meyer, who joined her for the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic Another Suitcase in Another Hall.

A final song brought to an end what is surely one of the most memorable evenings that musical theatre can have to offer. And that is praise indeed!

Until February 20. To book, call 01635 46044 or visit www.watermill.org.uk

Review: Mary Scriven

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