Tag Archives: Ken Billington

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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Adelphi Theatre



Adelphi Theatre

Reviewed – 7th March 2019



“a smart and sensitive script with a magnificent sense of humour”


If you’re at all interested in musical theatre, then Waitress probably needs no introduction. The musical adaptation of Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film of the same name went down a treat on Broadway in 2016, garnering a host of Tony nominations, and its transfer to the West End has been hotly anticipated by many. If the name Waitress doesn’t mean anything to you yet, then here’s a quick summary: it’s an absolute firecracker.

The plot centres on Jenna (Katharine McPhee), a waitress and skilled pie maker at a local diner, whose life is thrown into chaos upon realising she’s fallen pregnant at the hands of her abusive husband, Earl (Peter Hannah). With the support of her two colleagues and friends, Becky (Marisha Wallace) and Dawn (Laura Baldwin), and her new gynaecologist Dr Pomatter (David Hunter), she is forced to make choices for herself and her child that question what true happiness entails and whether motherhood and a career are allowed to thrive in tandem.

Jessie Nelson’s book delivers a beautiful blend of delicious comedy and more complex ruminations on the greyer morality of relationships to mull over – with both Jenna and Becky in unsatisfying relationships, and Dawn desperately seeking love, they make a lot of questionable choices that are ultimately treated with sympathy and understanding by the script, as well as by Diane Paulus’ direction, and Sara Bareilles’ music and lyrics. Certain moments feel like tired tropes being wheeled out, such as Dawn suddenly being seen as more attractive after taking off her glasses and letting her hair down, and the end of the show dismisses some of the nuanced ingredients it was mixing for the sake of a more sickly-sweet conclusion that felt like it was just trying to wrap everything up neatly, but overall Waitress features a smart and sensitive script with a magnificent sense of humour.

Bareilles’ songs amplify this too, with the pop-fuelled score incorporating soaring melodies and beautiful harmonies to punctuate character moments and relationships, and keep the tone and atmosphere firmly pinned to the setting of the American South. Particular highlights are Dawn’s neurotic ‘When He Sees Me’ and the Act One finale ‘Bad Idea’, as well as its reprise in Act Two – the hugely theatrical nature of these songs allowed for slick and dynamic choreography from Lorin Latarro, creating a visual and audial combination that was an absolute joy to consume.

The performances were ceaselessly strong all round. McPhee’s vocals were heavenly in the show’s signature song, ‘She Used to Be Mine’, and Wallace and Hunter brought an enrapturing amount of depth and empathy to their respective characters of Becky and Dr Pomatter. Jack McBrayer also demonstrates his scene-stealing comic prowess as Dawn’s love interest Ogie. Paulus’ direction brings out the best in all the characters and keeps the show moving at a tight pace, allowing everyone’s creativity to shine through when needed.

Waitress is not flawless, and is in no way a revolution for musical theatre, but the restless sense of joy and fun it invokes cannot be overstated – this show is utterly delectable.


Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Johan Persson


Waitress The Musical


Adelphi Theatre until 19th October


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Motherhood or Madness | ★★★ | Katzpace Studio Theatre | November 2018
Specky Ginger C*nt | ★★½ | Katzpace Studio Theatre | November 2018
Pinocchio | ★★ | The Albany Theatre | December 2018
Fight Night | ★★★★ | The Vaults | January 2019
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | January 2019
[Title Of Show] | ★★★★ | Above the Stag | February 2019
BackPAGE | ★★½ | Lion & Unicorn Theatre | February 2019
Black Is The Color Of My Voice | ★★★ | Trafalgar Studios | February 2019
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | Trafalgar Studios | February 2019
Talk Radio | ★★★½ | The Tower Theatre | March 2019


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