The Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals we’ve seen over the past 30 years have come in three sizes – big, bigger, biggest. They typically come with a huge cast, elaborate sets, and bombastic music.
But the Andrew Lloyd Webber show at New Helvetia Theater is a horse of a different color -- a deliberately compact affair with songs scored for a single voice in small theater:
Excerpt from show, Nanci Zoppi singing: “Now, no matter what I do, I see a face appearing, like an unexpected song, an unexpected song that only we are hearing…”
One actress, backed by piano and cello. The props consist of a few suitcases and costumes from an onstage rack. And the show has only one act – just enough songs to fill a vinyl LP, something that was clearly the composer’s mind when he wrote this show in the late ‘70s.
“Tell Me On A Sunday” is a song cycle telling the story a plucky English girl who comes to America looking for romance as well as fame as a fashion designer… but in the end, she doesn’t find both. And love is the elusive ideal that always seems to slip away.
Excerpt from show Nanci Zoppi singing:
“You made me think you were in love
You made me think that I was all you'd need
You made me think you were in love
If they gave Oscars for deceit you would win
Plastic man, hear me if you can”
Actress Nanci Zoppi doesn’t necessarily convince you that she’s British. But she conveys the quandary of her character, eager for a steady relationship, but ultimately as opportunistic as some of the not-so-honest men she meets along the way.
This is a cozy little production by design, and the intimacy favors the material and adds to the charm. I also got a sense of “the road not taken” – the small setting displays Andrew Lloyd Webber’s melodic style better than many of his gaudier big-box shows. But the composer never wrote another chamber piece. Seeing this unpretentious little song cycle, you can’t help but sigh with a touch of regret, and think about what might have been.
“Tell Me On A Sunday” continues at the New Helvetia Theatre in Sacramento through October 27.