Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, London – until 27 September 2020
Based on the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan film, Sleepless is a unique musical that works well in these socially distanced times.
Transforming one of the early 1990s best-loved and unique romantic comedies into a musical is no easy task – particularly when the two central characters barely meet throughout it all.
Sleepless follows the story of sam a man who is grieving for his late wife while bringing up his son Jonah. One evening Jonah rings a radio show to discuss how his father is lonely – which touches the heart of journalist Annie – but is it really possible for you to fall for someone that you have never met before?
Surprisingly touching, the story isn’t simply a romantic story it is also about two characters who go on their own individual journeys to get to where they are supposed to be. In Sam’s case it’s finding the strength to move forward with life and to get through his grief, while Annie’s is to understand that love doesn’t have to be seen in a practical way.
While retaining the spirit of the film, Michael Burdett’s book makes the story feel refreshing and new. This being said, there are times when the dialogue – particularly early on – can feel slightly stilted. However, there is no denying it has been sensitively created, as seen in moments when Sam is comforting Jonah in the aftermath of a nightmare or when Jonah and Rob convince Sam to try dating again. There is certainly a real warmth and understanding in which the sensitive issue of grief is handled.
Directed with great feeling and sleekness by Morgan Young, the whole production is very understated and simple – but this is what makes it endearing, when combined by Robert Scott’s jazz inspired music and Brendan Cull’s thoughtful and poignant lyrics. Songs such as ‘The Way He Said My Name’ and ‘Everything’ really tug at the heartstrings, while ‘Dear Sleepless’ and ‘Some Things You Just Know’ add a bit of a fun vibe to the show.
The whole story has been impressively staged – particularly taking into consideration the difficultly of conveying the two extremely different locations used. Morgan Large’s angular set set design combined with Ian William Galloway’s gorgeous architectural style video design is really effective in ensuring the transformation from one location to the other is as smooth as possible. It also manages to make the show feel completely intimate.
There are also some lovely performances to be enjoyed. In particular, Cory English as Rob has some really enjoyable moments – particularly during the routine with Jobe Hart as Jonah for ‘Now Or Never’ that is really lively and engaging to watch. Kimberley Walsh is also a real delight as Annie, offering real depth and connection to the character as her outlook on love transforms – she also has some of the best songs to sing including ‘That Suits Me Fine’ and ‘Things I Didn’t Do’. Jay McGuiness as Sam offers a sensitive portrayal that makes his character instantly likeable but perhaps needs to relax into the role a little bit more. There is also great support from Daniel Casey as the allergy concious Walter and Tania Mathurin as the sharply perceptive Becky.
It is a musical with plenty of heart and feeling that captures the spirit of the original film in a new way, making you see the story and its characters in a new light. Understated it might be in contrast to other musicals but that only adds to its charm.
By Emma Clarendon
Sleepless A Musical Romance continues to play at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre until the 27th September. To book tickets click here or visit: Love Theatre.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, See Tickets, From the Box Office, Encore Tickets, London Theatre Direct or Last Minute.com .