Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Also see Rebecca's review of The Wild Duck
Even as a 1980s period piece, Andrew Lloyd Webber's one-act one-woman song cycle feels bizarrely misogynistic. The Girl (Julia Udine) has nothing going on in her life other than the men she loves. No professional aspirations, no job, no friends, no hobbies, and no pets. Even the book on her nightstand is a "how-to" manual for getting a green card rather than an interesting biography or quirky choice of literature. Director Debi Marcucci's decision to make costumes, shoes, and hair the only things that change about the Girl (of course she doesn't even have a name) from song to song only exacerbates the problem. I think it is safe to say that Udine is forced to spend at least one third of the performance adjusting her outfit, jewelry, or make-up.
Despite this very serious drawback, Tell Me on a Sunday is a very pleasant 70 minutes of musical theater. Julia Udine is a marvelous vocal technician and undeniably adorable to boot. There are some great songs ("Take That Look Off Your Face" and "Come Back with the Same Look in Your Eyes") and Udine has the raw talent and practiced skill to get the most out of each number. Pianist Ryan Touhey provides excellent accompaniment and the occasional well-timed scoff. The evening would doubtless be even more enjoyable if Touhey were allowed out from behind his screen and Udine only had to contend with two or three costume changes.
Since the costume changes are such a major part of the production, it is unfortunate that Sarah Mitchell's designs are inconsistent. There are a few great looksa one-piece bathing suit that screams 1980s gets covered up by an adorably West Coast striped carpi pant and floppy sun hatbut many of the looks are poorly tailored or jarringly incomplete, e.g., strange seams on the flimsy red dress Udine wears to open the show and at least two outfits that are inexplicably shirtless. Troy O'Shia's lighting design effectively transforms the small space and Ryan Peavey's sound design is top notch.
It is also worth noting that between Tell Me on a Sunday in Studio 3 and Noises Off on the main stage downstairs, there is not a single actor of color currently performing at the Walnut Street Theatre.
Tell Me on a Sunday, through June 10, 2018, on the Walnut Street Theatre's Studio 3 stage, 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA. For tickets phone 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787 or visit www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.