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SLEEPLESS: A MUSICAL at the Troubadour Theatre, Wembley Park, London (until 27 September. Box office: 0844 815 4865).
We are still not quite at the point of major theatres opening again. While there have been a number of open-air performances around the county, there have been no big shows in indoor theatres until now. But with great excitement and eager anticipation I attended the press night.
As it is the first time I have been inside a theatre since early March, it would have to be a pretty bad show for me to not enjoy it! And this show is far from a disappointment.
The theatre was very welcoming. No queuing as we entered the auditorium. A simple temperature check and click of the mobile phone to register contact details and we are in the large foyer. Proceeding to the bar to collect our pre-ordered pre-show drinks, we were able to sit at a table nicely distanced from others.
Gently shown to our seats by a charming usher, everyone is seated with nobody either side of their group and nobody in the row behind. With every member of the audience wearing a mask, we felt absolutely safe. Where in the past the theatre looked like a vast hanger, it now seems perfectly suited to the present conditions. Although it has a capacity of 1,200, only 400 seats are in use with this show. The cast and crew are tested daily and they, too, are safe.With a well-behaved audience willing the performance to work, we were surrounded by warm vibes and able to relax and enjoy the show!
And now for the production itself… Sleepless: A Musical Romance is based very closely on the sweet Nora Ephron 1993 film, Sleepless in Seattle, which starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as the pair of lovers who don’t actually come together until the end of the movie. In fact, the plot of the musical fits in extremely well with social distancing.
10-year-old Jonah (played on press night by Jobe Hart) feels sorry for his architect father who remains not only sad but fairly inactive following the death of his wife a year earlier. Jonah phones in to a night-time show in their home town of Seattle and tells the agony aunt all about his father. Getting his dad, Sam (Jay McGuiness) to the phone is tricky, but Jonah manages it. Listening in is journalist Annie (Kimberley Walsh) in Baltimore. She is very moved by Sam’s description of his bereavement and determines to find him. Following his radio interview, Sam receives lots of letters from love-struck females and he becomes known as ‘Sleepless in Seattle.’
Although Annie has a long-term boyfriend, Walter (Daniel Casey) – with the intervention of Jonah – she arranges to meet Sam at the top of the Empire State Building. It’s a charming, romantic story which has now been set to music. While the songs are fairly run-of-the mill, they are put across nicely by the whole cast. McGuiness and Walsh sing pleasantly and manage to portray the essence of their characters without any great dramatic range. As they have both performed well on Strictly Come Dancing it is a pity not to see them dance in this show.
Jobe Hart was delightful as Sam’s son and there is a show-stopping dance by him and Sam’s friend, Rob (Cory English). Harriet Thorpe sings her songs particularly well and the whole cast perform in a most lively manner.
The 12-member band provide lively music and the show is so expertly directed by Morgan Young that the audience has no feeling that there is any special accommodation being made for the present day special circumstances. A very attractive set revolves smartly to reveal the different venues.
I don’t know whether we were there for the theatre or the show; I guess in this case it was both! Do gather your groups and go to see this. If you are not able to visit in the very near future, then you will have another chance as the show will be put on in a West End theatre in the Spring.
Report by: Carlie Newman