Jodie Prenger is heading to Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall this week to perform her one-woman show Tell Me on a Sunday, a classic tale of life, love and loss set to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black. Eileen Leahy spoke to her about why this musical, which has endured for over 30 years, is just so special…
Jodie Prenger found fame on BBC One’s I’d Do Anything talent show in 2008 when she won the coveted role of Nancy in the West End production of Oliver! Since then she has gone on to carve out an illustrious career starring in many major theatrical productions, including One Man, Two Guv’nors and also Calamity Jane which she toured to sell-out audiences last year, Tunbridge Wells fans among them.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR ROLE IN TELL ME ON A SUNDAY?
The story is about a young woman called Emma’s journey through life told through song in a series of conversations and letters, mainly to her mum. It spans the late 70s and early 80s and sees Emma go on a life-changing journey to New York. She goes through a lot of turmoil in terms of her love life and career but the resolution to all the drama is quite endearing.
DENISE VAN OUTEN AND CLAIRE SWEENEY HAVE BOTH PERFORMED THE ROLE, HAD YOU SEEN THEIR VERSIONS BEFORE YOU TOOK ON THE PART?
No, the only thing I had watched was the original TV version entitled Song and Dance which starred Marti Webb in 1982. We thought about doing it like this again but we decided to encapsulate the original in the first act with the second one allowing me to sing at the piano and chat to the audience in a Q&A format about life, love and playing Emma.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE ROLE?
It’s a part that every leading lady dreams of because it’s a one-woman show and like nothing else you’ve ever done before. It has all these iconic songs which topped the charts years ago and have lasted for decades. It’s such an honour to sing classics such as Take That Look Off Your Face and Nothing Like You’ve Ever Known. It also appealed to me because it’s a very real story people can empathise with, which is sometimes a rarity in musical theatre.
WHAT WILL AUDIENCES ENJOY ABOUT IT?
It has an anchor in real life. Most women – and some men – have been through what Emma has so they can relate to it. The show is very emotive and at times I can hear the audience sniffling and crying while I’m performing and there’s a part of me that wants to go ‘Oh it’ll be all right!’ But it’s lovely, it’s a real joy to do.
SO YOU COULD DESCRIBE IT AS A BIT OF AN EMOTIONAL ROLLER-COASTER THEN?
Oh yes, it makes you feel happy for Emma one minute then totally sad the next. It takes you through every emotion possible and it’s all encapsulated in the first one-hour act which has 24 songs. That’s a tremendous feat for Andrew Lloyd Webber to have achieved.
HOW DOES IT DIFFER TO THE ORIGINAL SONG AND DANCE PRODUCTION?
Andrew has changed a few things and updated some lyrics. The amendments to the general banter are all very subtle and would probably be only picked up by those who are fans of the original TV version. There are also some new songs in there, like Dreams Never Run On Time, so you get all the best bits plus a little bit more, too. It’s like a fine wine, it keeps just getting better and better over the years.
HOW MANY SHOWS ARE THERE IN THE TOUR?
The tour is very comprehensive, there are 54 dates in total, but I’m very proud to have it out on the road. We’ve had such a lovely response so I can’t ask for more.
WHEN DO YOU FINISH TOURING?
On June 8, but before that we’ve got Dublin, Edinburgh and Manchester. I’m looking forward to all the shows but especially Manchester as it’s close to where I’m from Blackpool.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT PERFORMING IN TUNBRIDGE WELLS AGAIN?
It will be so lovely to come back. We had such a great time here when we toured Calamity Jane and the nicest part of it was when I realised that one of my dear friends from back home, Raschid Gibrail, has a café in Tunbridge Wells – Ismail. It’s such a small world! I know him really well so I’ll make time for a cup of coffee with him.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT TUNBRIDGE WELLS?
It’s just such a beautiful part of the world and everyone is so lovely. I never have the time to explore places when I am on tour. I call myself a little nomad as I travel so much for work, but when I do have time off I just whisk myself off to a beach.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU JODIE?
There are two things in the pipeline but I can’t talk about them, I’ll get my knuckles rapped! All I can say is one project is for TV and the other’s for the stage so I’ve got one of each, which is great.
WHICH DO YOU PREFER, TELEVISION OR THEATRE?
I enjoy both mediums but they are very different. I am a people person so if I’ve got a good crew then I know I’ll really enjoy a job.
IS THERE ANYONE YOU WOULD REALLY LIKE TO WORK WITH?
After we finished Calamity Jane I wrote to its original star Doris Day to say ‘thank you’ as we had enjoyed such a successful tour. I never expected a reply from her but she wrote back to me and that was so nice. She is doing my ultimate bucket list dream of running an animal sanctuary so I’d love to work with her on that!
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WHEN THE TOUR ENDS?
I’ve just bought a farm so I’m looking forward to pulling on my wellies and being with my animals. We have all sorts and the numbers keep growing but it’s something that really helps me relax.
Jodie stars in Tell Me on a Sunday on Friday April 15 at the Assembly Hall Theatre at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £27 plus booking fee. For more information visit www.tellmeontour.co.uk