Friday, April 30, 2010

Tell Me on a Sunday entertains at ArtsWest

The standard showbiz bromide "Break a leg" nearly came literally true to scuttle the entire run of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Tell Me on a Sunday less than a minute into its opening night at ArtsWest Wednesday. A lift bringing actress Danielle Barnum up from beneath the stage for her grand entrance stuck and lurched slightly, sending Barnum staggering a bit. She was able to regain her balance, avoid skeletal damage, and turn in a marvelous performance as Emma in this seldom-produced Lloyd Webber show.

Danielle Barnum as Emma in Sheldon Bloom's swimming
pool in the ArtsWest production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's

Tell Me on a Sunday. Photo by Matthew Durham.
ArtsWest did most everything right in this production. Barnum is an engaging performer with a sweet singing voice. Director Christopher Zinovitch and crew cooked up an interesting set with a clever projection screen that sometimes hid, sometimes revealed the musicians. The musicians did a fine job with Lloyd Webber's score. The one mis-step, apart from Barnum's stumble onto the stage, may have been the selection of this particular work.

Tell Me on a Sunday is not typical Lloyd Webber fare, which could be good or bad depending on your point of view. This is a one-actor show, and while Weisenheimer isn't necessarily opposed to the same, it seems a musical must be especially challenging to pull off when there's nobody else to sing and dance with, particularly when the one character isn't fabulously likable. Emma's life in the U.S. is a lonely one, trying to break into the hat-making business far away from her native England, and she and her series of invisible beaus use each other until they're finished, then move on to the next. Some wonderful comic touches helped lighten the tone. The swimming pool scene in Beverly Hills was pretty funny.

Barnum gives it her best and turns in an enjoyable performance. We saw her in Balagan Theatre's well-received production of The Full Monty back in November. She was delightful in Tell Me, and pulled off some incredibly rapid wardrobe changes during the one-act show. She's a talented young actor and we're looking forward to seeing more of her. Kudos to musical director and pianist Deanna Schaffer, Joseph Baken on violin, Jacqueline Benthuysen on viola, and Justin Huertas on cello for some top-notch playing.

There were a few opening-night glitches on Wednesday, notably with the lighting, which we didn't think was always where it was intended to be. We're sure those will get ironed out.

All in all, Tell Me on a Sunday is worth a look. It's playing at ArtsWest through May 23.

1 comment:

Sweetie the Official Scorer said...

After it happened I actually wondered whether that was intentional and meant to be the lurch of the subway coming to a stop. But at the time I thought she was going to take a header.