Carly Binding, who will be familiar to many New Zealanders as a pop star turned singer-songwriter. Now she's returning to the stage in a different sort of performance, tackling the one-woman Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Tell Me On A Sunday - a 23-song cycle that follows a young English woman as she heads to New York and then Los Angeles in pursuit of love.

What made you want to do a musical theatre project?

I studied classical music and musical theatre when I was young, I did a course at EIT in the Hawkes Bay, so that was the direction I initially took. And my mother and grandmother were both musical theatre performers, so it was in my blood. I guess I went off in a pop direction for a while, but I've always loved musical theatre, and I've always felt there's a way of doing it well.

So this isn't the first musical you've done, but it's a one-woman show, which is quite brave. Why drew you to Tell Me On A Sunday?

This is actually my debut as a lead, and true to form, I've ended up in a show where I'm the only person on stage. Good one Carly!


The director, David Coddington, wanted to do this show for a long time, but it's often done really badly - you know they make it a bit tacky and overly sentimental. So he's always wanted to do a really honest and sincere version. And he sat down with a few people to brainstorm who might be good for the role, and they came up with my name. Lots of people have said, "'you're so brave", which I hadn't really thought about, I just wanted to do it, and it felt right. But I guess I like being scared, I like a challenge.

I guess in some respects, having been on stage by yourself doing shows as a solo singer-songwriter, it's not too much different?

Exactly! I mean the difference is that I'm not holding an instrument, and I'm portraying someone else's songs, rather than my own. So I'm learning to step outside myself and put myself in the position of this girl, and follow the direction of someone else, and perhaps use my own experiences to help me communicate this story.

What is it about her that you relate to or empathise with?

She's young, not necessarily in age, but in relationship naivety, and I think that's why everyone can relate to her, because that's how people are whenever they begin a new relationship. You go in with such goodwill and hope, and you mean so well, but it doesn't always go the way you want it to.

And how will it be different from previous versions?

It's very stripped-back, and we've set it in modern times. I'm in my apartment, there's a couch, a clothes rack, my dressing table, and a chair, basically. It sounds like it has often been overproduced in the past, you know, petals falling from the ceiling, but it's got to be about the person on stage giving everything they've got emotionally, otherwise it becomes disconnected. So I guess it's more like a play as opposed to a musical.

Does musical theatre feel more right for you than being a pop star at this stage in your life?

I am definitely somebody who's only ever done anything that feels right for me at that point. People say things like "oh you disappeared, what have you been doing?" But I just stopped for a while, I wanted to have a family and be a mother, because I'd spent so long living out of a suitcase on my own, with no home and no real family, and I really wanted that. Where I am now in my life, doing this feels so right. I may make another record a year or so down the track, or I may keep doing this, but as long as it feels right to me I'll do it.

Who: Carly Binding
What: Tell Me On A Sunday
When and where: On now at the Q Theatre Loft, running until November 24

- TimeOut