So, Troubador Wembley Park Theatre and the team behind Sleepless, A Musical Romance are to be thanked for reminding us of the sheer exhilaration of live theatre. It’s also great to see a long list of staff and creatives back at work, after a period that so endangered the livelihoods of theatre staff and freelancers.
But what of the show itself? Well, it doesn't set your pulse racing, but it's serviceable.
Sleepless, A Musical Romance adapts to the stage the much-loved 90s film Sleepless in Seattle, itself based on Norah Ephron’s classic love story.
In the unlikely event you’re unfamiliar with the plot, here are its broad outlines:
A young widowed architect called Sam moves to Seattle with his 10-year-old son, Jonah. In an attempt to help his father find happiness, Jonah phones a radio agony aunt. Sam breaks into the call, but finds himself opening up about his insomnia and depression – and soon listeners all around the country are falling in love with the sleepless man in Seattle.
To Baltimore journalist Annie this has all the makings of a good feature, but before long she becomes part of the story. With a little help from Jonah, Sam and Annie finally find each other.
Michael Burdette’s book moves the story seamlessly between scenes, aided by Morgan Large’s superb set: a versatile box that rotates to provide various settings, from Sam’s houseboat to Annie’s home, standing against the silhouetted skylines of Seattle, Baltimore and finally New York, which are gloriously depicted in Ian William Galloway’s video projections.
Robert Scott’s music, played live by a 12-piece jazz orchestra tucked away out of sight under the direction of Chris Walker, is pleasant, if entirely unmemorable. The same goes for Brendan Cull’s lyrics.
The two leads, Jay McGuiness as Sam and Kimberley Walsh as Annie, are competent enough and can hold a tune, as befits former members of successful pop groups; but neither has the charisma or the killer voice required of musical actors, the kind that punches you in the gut and holds your attention.
On press night the real stars of the show were Jobe Hart as Jonah (one of four budding actors who will alternate in the role), who already has an impressive performance CV for one so young, and the veteran Cory English as Sam’s vaguely roué friend, Rob. Hart’s talent fizzes, making his every scene compelling, particularly his long comic duet with English early in Act II, when Sleepless first really comes alive.
Plaudits, too, to a small but totally committed ensemble.
In short, Sleepless, A Musical Romance is a start, and the mere fact that it’s there is cause for celebration in our Covid-afflicted times.
|What||Review: Sleepless, A Musical Romance|
|Where||Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, Fulton Rd, Wembley, HA9 8TS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Wembley Park (underground)|
25 Aug 20 – 27 Sep 20, 19:45 (exc 1 Sept at 19:00). Sat & Sun mats at 15:00. No performance Mondays. Dur.: 2 hours inc one interval
|Price||£15 - £45|
|Website||Click here to book now|