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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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Review of Deathtrap – 4 Stars



Mercury Theatre, Colchester

Reviewed – 31st October 2017



“design is initially majestic and also cleverly subtle, leaving plenty of discoveries around the set”


Watching Deathtrap put me in mind of when I read ‘Gone Girl’, and was frankly a bit bored with the opening action then became pleasantly surprised when it turned out that actually my initial boredom was sort of the whole point. In another likeness to that recent novel blockbuster, I find it is difficult to write a thorough review of this Ira Levin play without including a few substantial spoilers. Let us just say that there are a more plot turns and character spins than you can shake a spine-tingling stick at throughout two roughly 60 minute acts of middle American domestic disturbia. I left with the over all feel of having seen a middle aged, live action take on the kind of brash teen horrors typical of the late nineties, filled with cheap but effective scares and frequent whips of humour to keep things moving along. This probably speaks more of my own age and cinematic preferences than the classic noir periods of Hollywood and Broadway frequently referenced throughout Deathtrap, which will have a greater impact on genre fans of that type.

Familiar faces of Albert Square Paul Bradley and Jessie Wallace take the top billing as the married couple at the centre of events. Jessie Wallace gives a solid performance of the disquieted wife to Bradley’s wonderfully sarcastic but volatile failing playwright Sydney Bruhl. Beverley Klein puts in a show stealing OTT turn as crazed Scandanavian pyschic Helga, though I have to call Sam Phillips as the standout performance of this production. His portrayal of Clifford Anderson is spot on, but is again difficult to comment on too thoroughly without over divulging the plot information. Phillips also manages to maintain a convincing and consistent American accent where some other cast members frequently fall short. Julien Ball in the smaller but still pivotal roll of Porter Milgrim ties the ensemble together neatly.

Production design (costume and set by Morgan Large) is initially majestic and also cleverly subtle, leaving plenty of discoveries around the set of Bruhl’s murder-prop adorned writing room for audience members with a wandering eye. Use of old suspense films clips (video design by Duncan McLean) gives a refreshing edge to the scene changes and points should be awarded for minimal but well placed sound (Ben and Max Ringham) and lighting (James Whiteside) effects.

Overall, director Adam Penford has dished up a bit of fun in this entertaining, if ever so slightly hammy play by the suspense powerhouse Ira Levin, whose work is heavily endorsed by chiller master Stephen King among many, many others. King fans might also appreciate the inward looking trick of creepy writers writing about creepy writers. Worth a visit either at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester until 4th November then heading to Birmingham and Richmond.


Reviewed by Jenna Barton

Photography by  James Beedham




is at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester until 4th November then continues its UK Tour



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