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Theatre review Sleepless in Seattle: A Musical Romance, Troubadour Wembley

PUBLISHED: 11:31 02 September 2020

Jack Reynolds and Jay McGuinness in Sleepless, A Romantic Musical. Picture: Alastair Muir

Jack Reynolds and Jay McGuinness in Sleepless, A Romantic Musical. Picture: Alastair Muir

©ALASTAIR MUIR Contact alastair@alastairmuir.com

Postponed from its March opening, this musical version of the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie is the first fully-staged socially-distanced indoor theatre in town

Kimberley Walsh, Jack Reynolds and Jay McGuinness in Sleepless, A Romantic Musical. Picture: Alistair MuirKimberley Walsh, Jack Reynolds and Jay McGuinness in Sleepless, A Romantic Musical. Picture: Alistair Muir

This musical version of movie Sleepless in Seattle, postponed from its March opening, is now a pilot for fully staged, socially distanced indoor theatre.

Good-humoured ushers make the safety measures, like masks and temperature checks, feel natural, and there’s plenty of room for staggered seating in this cavernous venue.

The show itself sticks closely to the film. Grief-stricken widower Sam suffers from insomnia, so 10-year-old son Jonah tricks him into speaking to a radio psychiatrist. Listeners are moved by his raw emotion – including Baltimore-based Annie, who believes this is destiny.

Sadly, the ‘com’ of Nora Ephron’s rom-com suffers in the sparsely populated venue (400 down from 1,300). Michael Burdette’s book fares best riffing on the Nineties setting – like Annie’s bewilderment at a new-fangled computer that allows her to work from home.

Leanne Garrety, Charlie Bull, and Dominique Planter in Sleepless, A Romantic Musical. Picture: Alastair MuirLeanne Garrety, Charlie Bull, and Dominique Planter in Sleepless, A Romantic Musical. Picture: Alastair Muir

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Pop-star pair Jay McGuiness (The Wanted) and Kimberley Walsh (Girls Aloud) are likeable leads. But they lack the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan quirky charisma that made the journey as fun as the inevitable destination. And Morgan Young’s static production doesn’t utilise their Strictly Come Dancing moves.

Similarly, Robert Scott and Brendan Cull’s jazz score is genial but too sentimental. The standout number is witty “Dear Sleepless”, featuring Charlie Bull, Leanne Garretty and Dominique Planter’s eager letter-writers. Excellent, too, are Harriet Thorpe, Tania Mathurin, Jobe Hart and Cory English.

Morgan Large and Ian William Galloway’s creative design whisks us between locations, with architectural drawings nodding to Sam’s profession, while a 12-piece orchestra provides sterling support.

Just as the story is in meta conversation with the classic movie An Affair to Remember, Sleepless benefits from double nostalgia: our affection for the original film, and the joy of attending theatre – just like the good old days.

Add in some poignant resonance with characters physically separated or suffering bereavement, and this feel-good show becomes a post-lockdown tonic.

3/5 stars


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