The Show Goes On: Sleepless - A Musical Romance
“You are the puzzle I love to solve”
Walter to Annie
The word is magical! To be back inside a real theatre, enjoying the first night of a new musical, safely socially distanced, and away from the sadness of the pandemic which had closed London theatres since mid March. It was such a privilege to be there, although I felt underdressed not to be in the full animal print frock and have Swarovski crystals on my face mask! The show is a musical version of Sleepless in Seattle, the 1993 Rom-Com movie starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
Sam (Jay McGuiness) is a widower who lives with his son Jonah (Jobe Hart but also Theo Collins/Mikey Colville/Jack Reynolds) on a houseboat in the harbour in Seattle, Washington state. Sam is an architect and on each change of scene, above the stage, are details of the architectural blue print with the date of construction and the name of the architect.
We also meet single girl Annie (Kimberley Walsh) who lives in Baltimore, Maryland and works as journalist. Annie’s current boyfriend is Walter (Daniel Casey of Midsomer Murders fame) who is allergic to practically everything. Annie’s song “That Suits Me Fine” suggests that Walter is bit of a compromise decision on her part, contrasting with her mother Eleanor’s (Harriet Thorpe) recalling the magic of falling in love with the powerful song, “The Way He Said My Name”.
Sam’s son Jonah captures the heart of the nation when he phones in to Dr. Marcia Fieldstone’s radio show to talk about his father needing a new wife. Sam is persuaded to come to the phone and sings about the beautiful memories of his wife in “Everything”.
Women of a certain age respond to Sam’s lyrical tribute to his wife. We hear three of them who write to him, Patsy Ms. Portland Oregon (Charlie Bull), Marissa Ms. Miami Florida (Leanne Garretty) and Nancy Ms. New York City (Dominique Planter) as “Dear Sleepless”, which is the nickname Dr. Marcia has given Sam. It was sad that I couldn’t hear the lyrics to this song because from what I could hear, Brendan Cull’s lyrics were witty and toe-curlingly off-putting. “You’re my last hope,” they chorused.
Scottish composer Robert Scott’s tunes are pleasant and accessible and Jonah’s “It Always Rains in Seattle” is a highlight. I suspect, with more listening time, the music would grow on me. Michael Burdette’s book differs slightly from the film with the expanded character Rob (Cory English) now doubling as babysitter and airline ticket enabler. Becky, (Tania Mathurin) Annie’s work colleague gives different advice from that of her film role and her performance is strong. Cory English’s songs often had a comic element and his clarity was perfect and his voice strong.
A 12 piece jazz orchestra plays in this musical which was due to run from 24th March this year. The Troubadour Wembley Park is a new theatre which inside feels a little like a live audience television studio and was originally a part of the Fountain Studios for recording television.
Director Morgan Young, who also recently directed and choreographed Elf and Big The Musical, reunites Jay McGuiness and Kimberley Walsh from Big The Musical, in a musical which is again based on a much loved film. As a couple, for me, they lacked the quintessential chemistry but Jobe Hart as Jonah has surely the makings of a musical star! Jonah’s routine with Rob in “Now or Never” is choreographically exciting and powerfully sung.
I liked Morgan Large’s flexible design of the glass and steel buildings, forming: Sam’s houseboat; Annie’s Baltimore home; Seattle-Tacoma airport and in New York, the Empire State Building with other buildings sketched in the style of chalk on black board. To the back, photographed scenes in colour of the Seattle Space Needle, the New York Skyline and other cityscapes.
Choreographically, Sleepless is minimalist but there is a final scene which showcases Jay McGuiness’s talent as a former winner of Strictly Come Dancing.
To enjoy Sleepless, you will need to cast off your cloak of cynicism and get swept away by the unashamed romanticism of a show akin to a Cornetto television advertisement. And why not? Celebrate the first real opening in London at the Troubadour Wembley Park with the pleasure that theatre-going brings!
Design For Life
That Suits Me Fine
The Way He Said My Name
A Whole Different Ballgame
Some Things You Just Know
Things I Didn’t Do
The Way He Said My Name (Reprise)
It’s Out Of My Hands
Now Or Never
Are You Looking Up
Things I Didn’t Do (Reprise)
It Always Rains In Seattle
Now I Know (Reprise)
Sleepless – A Musical Romance
Based on the original screenplay, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’
Book by Michael Burdette
Music by Robert Scott
Lyrics by Brendan Cull
Directed by Morgan Young
Director and Choreographer: Morgan Young
Musical Supervisor: Stuart Morley
Orchestrations: Larry Blank
Production Designer: Morgan Large
Lighting Designer: Ken Billington
Video Designer: Ian William Galloway
Sound Designer: Simon Biddulph
Costume Designer: Sue Simmerling
Musical Director: Chris Walker
Running Time: Two hours with a 15 minute interval
Closed on 27th September 2020
Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre
3 Fulton Road
Wembley HA9 0SP
Tube: Wembley Park
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at the Troubadour Wembley Park on 1st September 2020