MUSICAL REVIEW: Sleepless A Musical Romance ★★★

Sleepless: A Musical Romance
The Troubadour Theatre, Wembley
Tuesday 25th August - Sunday 27th September 2020

For those who can remember, the 1993 rom-com classic Sleepless in Seattle, starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, stole audiences hearts with a story of one man, Sam Baldwin, who finds himself on the radio one evening talking about his late wife, when Baltimore Sun news reporter happens to be listening in and mesmerised by his story, and so begins a story of cat and mouse, as their paths so coincidentally cross through letters and a short greeting at the airport, though the two barely know who the other is.

In this musical romance comedy, staged at The Troubadour Theatre in Wembley, and becoming the first major indoor musical in the UK since restrictions were lifted recently post-lockdown, Jay McGuiness and Kimberly Walsh reunite after this BIG collaboration at The Dominion last year to fall in love every night in this production which feels too small and compact for the grand staging it's situated on.

Originally planned to go ahead in March this year, Preconceptions of this musical beforehand may have you to believe that due to the restrictions in social distancing, the atmosphere and chemistry may feel stale at times with obvious direction, however the musical itself, as well as the care from the creative team to ensure the health of their company, all together creates a production that oddly feels normal considering the circumstances. Apart from one number which has three ladies dying for Sam Baldwin's attention through quite raunchy open letters, that ultimately feels too small for the lavish setting and tone, the creative choices from director Morgan Young (who also directed BIG, Elf, and White Christmas) makes you feel like theatre has never been away, and that's the biggest compliment any production could receive at this moment, as at times I found myself relaxed and beaming from under my mask.

The issue with the musical comes with the source material from the movie, which features an amalgamation of side characters who, when transferred onto the stage, just become lost in the giant sea of set pieces which swallow up the majority of the stage. It was however Cory English as Sam's dad Rob, and Jack Reynolds, who in this performance portrayed Jonah, Sam's son who is alternated between three child actors, that both completely stole the show with their charisma as Grandad and Grandson, whose undeniable features of charm and wit had the audience in hysterics whenever they were together, usually with McGuiness as they teased his newly renowned attention from an array of females from across the world.

On the Technical side of the production, Sue Simmerling's costume breezed through the production with style, hurtling us right back to the 90s, whilst Ken Billington's Lighting dazzled to tight streams that focused very much on the essentials, even if that means odd patches of darkness are scattered around. Simon Biddulph's Sound Design also feels heavy and rough at certain moments is well, which affected the feedback quality from the performers mics, though luckily this was just short intervals throughout.

Overall, whilst Sleepless certainly keeps us entertained with a love story told in a 'Sliding Doors' style of romance, it cannot be held upright when a string of forgettable songs and characters who fade slowly into the background and become complacent, which is primarily at fault due to the original source material strung from the 1993 movie! 


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