Marti Webb, born 13 December 1944, in London, is a musical actress from England, who appeared on stage in Evita, before starring in Andrew Lloyd Webber's one woman show Tell Me On A Sunday in the mid 1980s. She had a hit in the UK Singles Chart with a song from the show, Take That Look Off Your Face.
Webb first came to prominence as Ann in the original London production of Half a Sixpence opposite Tommy Steele. She later dubbed the singing voice of Julia Foster, her replacement for the film adaptation. Immediately prior to her appearance in Half a Sixpence, Webb had made her West End debut in Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, which starred and had lyrics by Anthony Newley, whom Webb considered to be her mentor. She also played Nancy in the first UK tour of Oliver! where she met and befriended the show's Assistant Stage Manager Cameron Mackintosh, who was to become one of the most prominent musical theatre producers in world. When the production returned to the West End, Phil Collins who later achieved fame with Genesis played The Artful Dodger.
During the 1970s she carved out a career as a respected, though not yet famous, West End actress and singer appearing in both The Card, written by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, and Godspell, opposite David Essex, Julie Covington and Jeremy Irons. In 1979 she began to appear as a regular alternate to Elaine Paige in the original London production of Evita, taking over the role full time in 1980 just as the album of Tell Me on a Sunday was released. This was a #1 hit in the UK Albums Chart, and saw Webb become a household name.
The album of Tell Me on a Sunday had music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Don Black and was based on the story of the composer's friend, who had moved from London to the United States to begin a new life. Webb was asked to collaborate on the piece when only two songs had been written, so the rest of the album was created specifically with her voice and character in mind. Black, who became her manager and a close friend, said of her performance, "She was the girl, and that was it." Her tendency to, "Talk for hours about the most boring everyday things, like the gas or insurance," also inspired him in creating the narrative pieces in the song cycle which were letters to the character's mum.
Webb has a distinctive, untrained coloratura voice and Lloyd Webber was said to have told her "You sing in my keys." She apparently retorted, "You write in mine." He produced her second solo album Won't Change Places (1980) which featured two songs written by Lynsey De Paul:All I Am and What You Gonna do With Your Freedom. She has regularly performed at the Sydmonton Festival, his private gathering where new work is tried-out prior to a professional debut.
In the mid-1980s, she again succeeded Elaine Paige, this time in the musical Cats both in the West End production at the New London Theatre and subsequently on tour. When Tell Me on a Sunday was combined with Lloyd Webber's other successful album Variations, which had featured his brother, cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, to create the show Song and Dance, Webb reprised her role as the unnamed girl in the first act. In the second act Wayne Sleep and a dance troupe performed choreographed routines to Variations. The pair toured with the show extensively in the latter half of the decade.
She sang a cover version of Michael Jackson's Ben in memory of Ben Hardwick, a young boy who died of cancer after appearing on the BBC television programme That's Life!. The single reached #5 in the UK charts. She also later released "Always There", a version of the theme to BBC television drama Howards' Way, which was written by Simon May and Leslie Osbourne with lyrics by Don Black. The success of this inspired an album of the same name in which she covered other television themes.
In 1990, on the last studio collaboration between Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson, the album Freudiana, Webb performed two songs: the solo "Don't Let the Moment Pass" and "No One Can Love You Better Than Me" in which she joined forces with Woolfson, Gary Howard and Kiki Dee.
Webb co-devised and starred in 'The Magic of the Musicals', a UK concert tour featuring songs from musical theatre in 1992 opposite Opportunity Knocks winner Mark Rattray. The gold-selling album of the show was co-produced by Webb's former husband, sound engineer Tom Button. BBC Television also filmed and broadcast the show. This was followed in 1993 by a North American and Canadian tour and numerous UK versions in the following years, in which Rattray was succeeded by Dave Willetts, Robert Meadmore and most recently Wayne Sleep.
In 1995 Webb reprised her leading role in a UK tour of Evita, opposite Chris Corcoran as Che and Duncan Smith as Peron. The popularity of the tour led to it being repeated in 1996.
She more recently appeared in the new London stage production of Thoroughly Modern Millie (2003) uniquely alternating the role of Mrs Meers with Maureen Lipman, to allow Lipman to nurse her terminally ill husband. At the beginning of the following year, she again reprised her role in Tell Me On A Sunday both in the West End and on tour. The show had been substantially rewritten for a production starring Denise Van Outen, but a combination of the new and original scores was created specifically for Webb.
Christmas 2006 was spent in pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Windsor playing the Fairy Godmother in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
In 2007, Webb is to play alongside Sheila Ferguson and Rula Lenska in a new musical about the menopause called Hot Flush.
She is a patron of The Players Music Hall Theatre in London, which specialises in Victorian variety theatre.
Webb has married and divorced three times but has no children. She was married to Alexander Balfour in 1963, the actor Tim Flavin briefly in 1985 and sound engineer Tom Button, 25 years her junior, in the early 1990s. She lives in Westminster, London and Somerset.
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