Letters home: Ensemble Theatre’s Lloyd Webber musical is a one-woman show

 Misty Cotton is alone on stage in the one-woman, Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Tell Me On A Sunday." The Ensemble Theatre Company production runs through Aug. 2 at The New Vic. Courtesy photo

Misty Cotton is alone on stage in the one-woman, Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Tell Me On A Sunday.” The Ensemble Theatre Company production runs through Aug. 2 at The New Vic.
Courtesy photo

Ensemble Theatre Company’s season may be over for now, but it has one more surprise up its sleeve. “Tell Me On a Sunday,” which opens Thursday, is a light summer aperitif of music and song from Misty Cotton. She is performing a lesser known musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, best known for Broadway juggernauts like “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

It’s a tale of a young English woman who comes to New York City to try to make it big.

“It’s basically an Andrew Lloyd Webber concert,” director Jamie Torcellini says of the one-woman show. “It’s just her, Misty Cotton, on stage, with beautiful projections, lighting and sets by François (-Pierre Couture).” Asked how it is to direct Miss Cotton, who was seen last at ETC as Petra in “A Little Night Music,” he quipped, “What Misty wants, Misty gets . . . You want her happy. She’s going to be up there singing her guts out.”

The original show that premiered in 1979 was called “Song and Dance,” with act one consisting of “Tell Me on a Sunday” and act two a dance concert, retelling the same story. Marti Webb, who was playing Evita in Mr. Lloyd Webber’s much larger production at the time, took the role. Many critics pointed out that though the show is small in scale, it contains some of Mr. Lloyd Webber’s best melodies. Mr. Torcellini agrees, though he also had a long-running role in Cats many years ago and he’s a little bit tired of “Memories,” he admits.

“Three of my all time favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber songs are in this show,” he adds. “It has ‘Unexpected Song’ (a lot of divas that do cabaret love doing that song, it’s one of the best); ‘Tell Me on a Sunday’ the title song is a great breakup song; and ‘Nothing Like You’ve Ever Known’ which is not as well known, but incredibly beautiful.”

Miss Cotton’s character spends her time traveling to both New York and Los Angeles, trying to find love but suffering heartache, and relating it all to her mother in letters home. In the end, and this is not too much of a spoiler, she learns she has to love herself first.

By the time of its mid-2000s revival, the second act had been dropped, more songs were added and the character fleshed out.

Mr. Torcellini will also be familiar to regular Ensemble goers, as he was one of the two quick-change artists playing 30 roles in 2010’s “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” and he directed the equally silly “The 39 Steps” in 2012. Ensemble’s director Jonathan Fox met Mr. Torcellini while the latter was starring in “Billy Elliot” in Chicago, and invited him out to mount “Irma Vep.”

He loves musicals, but not so much directing huge casts, so this is perfect for the director. “Even though I come from a musical background, smaller cast plays are the ones I love most.”

And there are around 26 songs in this performance, with a quicker turnaround time from rehearsal to performance than staged plays. It doesn’t get any easier just because there’s a one-woman show here.

The original score smacked a bit of the ’80s, but with the arrangements by Graham Sobelman, who has worked the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and around California, the music has been updated for a contemporary feel. “It’s a little bit more haunting, and really beautiful,” says Mr. Torcellini.

“Tell Me on a Sunday”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, through Aug. 2. 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 4 p.m. Saturday July 25 and Aug. 1
Where: The New Vic, 33 W. Victoria St.
Cost: $40
Information: 805-965-5400, www.etcsb.org

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