Tag Archives: Harriet Thorpe

Sleepless, A Musical Romance


Troubadour Wembley Park


Sleepless, A Musical Romance

Troubadour Wembley Park

Reviewed – 1st September 2020



contains moments of honestly and heartfelt brilliance, but it is undoubtedly let down by its inconsistencies throughout


Sleepless closely follows the storyline of Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks’ smash hit film Sleepless in Seattle; a tale of two lost people, brought together by a little boy who calls up a radio station to seek out a new bride for his widowed father. In this story, the widow Sam (Jay McGuiness), was an awkward, hopelessly romantic architect and Annie (Kimberley Walsh) was a journalist, desperate to escape her current romantic predicament. This production was beautifully played by a 12-strong band, which worked with elements of Jazz to create a 1930s elegance and atmosphere whilst successfully, under Morgan Young’s direction, managing to remain in its 1990s setting.

Michael Rose and Damien Sanders have clearly put together this production for no financial gain, but only to demonstrate a total love of theatre and bring us all to what we have been starved of for too long. But despite really wanting to love this show, its disjointed nature left the production falling slightly flat. The opening numbers, intended to imitate a bleakness of the couple’s lives without love, were limp and awkward, making the intensely contrasting colour, that was unsubtly injected as the show progressed, too much. What I found particularly frustrating was that there was no moment where either protagonist sang about how they actually felt about the other, instead, all of this tangible emotion was given to secondary characters, and it was these songs, along with the technical aspects of the show that were the best parts of the production.

Jonah (Jobe Hart) outshone the rest of the cast with his confidence and commitment to be the naïve but cheeky son of Sam. In particular, his performance of ‘Now or Never’ where he showed off his ability to be the ‘triple threat’, conveying his agile dance moves and crystal-clear singing voice. Other standout moments from secondary characters were ‘Dear Sleepless,’ performed by Patsy (Charlie Bull), Marissa (Leanne Garretty) & Nancy (Dominique Planter), which was a welcome burst of energy, expressing the actual emotive response to the radio station call. Planter was particularly brilliant in this; her short solo was packed with humour and confidence. Finally, Harriet Thorpe, whose portrayal of Eleanor, Annie’s mother, was filled with charm and promise; her song ‘The Way He Said My Name’, was genuine and heart-warming.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by the two lovers, who both did have moments of relieving brilliance and whose singing was as expert as you’d expect, but whose awkward demeanours didn’t quite work. Annie’s song ‘Things I Didn’t Do’ was entirely captivating and showed a flash of true humanity. However, and maybe at fault of the script, in moments of panic, whereby she spoke quickly about the pronunciation of different words (a theme that was carried out across the show) was unconvincing and false. Jay McGuiness’ portrayal of Sam lacked gumption. His awkward, bereft demeanour didn’t play hand in hand and so the moments which did work, which were solely linked to his relationship with Jonah, felt as if they were entirely carried by Jobe Hart’s energy and dynamism.

The key brilliance in this piece came from the set (Morgan Large) and lighting (Ken Billington), which worked spectacularly together to create an architectural vision in order to mirror Sam’s profession. The set spun centrally to convey various rooms seamlessly, whilst externally to this, a stressed paint on wooden boards worked to imitate the waterside accommodation of Sam’s house as well as giving an ‘edgy’ feel to Annie’s home and workplace. Cabaret seating was used by both the cast and the audience at the front of the theatre and it worked beautifully to include the audience as part of the chorus; making us a part of the hustle of New York or joining them in an intimate and romantic restaurant.

Sleepless definitely contains moments of honestly and heartfelt brilliance, but it is undoubtedly let down by its inconsistencies throughout. It is a show for people who really like musicals, but not an all-time great.


Reviewed by Mimi Monteith

Photography by Alastair Muir


Sleepless, A Musical Romance

Troubadour Wembley Park until 27th September


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Soul Of Shaolin | ★★★★ | September 2019


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Ruthless the Musical – 2 Stars


Ruthless the Musical

Arts Theatre

Reviewed – 28th March 2018


“tries far too hard to be irreverent”


Making its West End debut, twenty-five years after it opened Off-Broadway, “Ruthless! The Musical” tells the story of eight-year-old Tina Denmark who will do anything to play the lead in her school play. The publicity material describes it as an all-female camp killer cult classic. It doesn’t take long to realise that the description is as tongue in cheek as the show itself. It may have achieved cult status across the pond, but ‘classic’ is stretching the gag too far. And it’s not even all-female with one of the characters being a man in drag.

What it is, though, is an audacious, over-the-top spoof of the dark side of ‘showbiz’; the world of pushy stage-mothers and precocious youths desperate for stardom, unscrupulous agents and sadistic critics. There is an almost surreal quality to its silliness that begs the audience to go along with it. It is not easy to go with the flow, however, as it tries far too hard to be irreverent.

The cast do give it their all in some robust performances, and they all embrace the fact that they are depicting caricatures rather than characters. This knowing wink to the audience brings us on their side but we can only support this allegiance so far. All too soon the fun is spoilt by the relentlessly force-fed humour. The tone remains on one level throughout and only when glimpses of the actors’ own expression shows through do we get another dimension. Tracie Bennett brings a breath of fresh air as the drunken theatre critic with the poison pen, Jason Gardiner is sinisterly camp as the unscrupulous agent and Kim Maresca gives a plausible portrayal of the pushy mother to Anya Evans’ eight-year-old wannabe. In fact it is Evans who seems to get the satire the most.

Joel Paley’s lyrics are sometimes witty, but Marvin Laird’s score lacks variation. Again, there are a couple of exceptions that stand out; the ensemble title tune, ‘Ruthless’, but most notably Kim Maresca’s solo number, the quite tender ‘It Will Never Be That Way Again’ which is a welcome departure from the normally shouty delivery of the other numbers.

The programme notes suggest that this revival be perceived within the modern concept of ‘Time’s Up’, and asks how the presentation of powerful women might change once women are “calling the shots”. A touch vainglorious, but maybe that’s ironic too, given the trigger-happy nature of the heroine. Unlike her, though, this show misses the target. Morgan Large’s fabulous set and costume create the right atmosphere, with the expectation that we’re in for a real party. But the overall feeling is one of being cornered at that party by the over enthusiastic host. Or rather hostess.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Alastair Muir


Arts Theatre link

Ruthless the Musical

Arts Theatre until 23rd June



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