Tag Archives: Stuart Morley

Sleepless, A Musical Romance

★★★

Troubadour Wembley Park

Sleepless

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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Big the Musical

Big the Musical

★★½

Dominion Theatre

Big the Musical

Big the Musical

Dominion Theatre

Reviewed – 18th September 2019

★★½

 

“The book and score are entirely forgettable; the rhymes from a Hallmark card and devoid of wit or charm”

 

In 1996, eight years after the now legendary film, starring Tom Hanks, hit American screens, Big – The Musical premiered on Broadway. Nearly 25 years later, Morgan Young, director, choreographer and chief architect of this Dominion production, has finally realised his dream to bring it to the London stage. It has not aged well. Despite the inordinate amount of money clearly spent on this production, and a few very good performances, the whole show seems distinctly creaky, and slightly tawdry too, like a ride at a cheap fairground on which you slightly fear for your safety.

The story is that of 12 year old Josh Baskin (Jay McGuiness), who, sick of being small, makes a wish at a travelling carnival to be big, and wakes up in the morning with the body of a full-grown man. Fleeing from his terrified mother (Wendi Peters), who fails to recognise him, and with the aid of his best friend Billy (Jobe Hart in last night’s performance), he winds up in New York, where he rises to success at an ailing toy company owned by George MacMillan (Matthew Kelly), getting romantically entangled with Susan (Kimberley Walsh) along the way, before returning to his real age and his home. It’s a fairly slight tale, and the message, such as it is, is sentimental stuff – hang on to your childhood, don’t grow up too fast, and bring the honesty and playfulness of childhood into your adult life. Grown-ups get a pretty bad press in this fable all in all; the apogee of this being the dreadful yuppie dinner party in act two, in which, inexplicably, the supporting men appear to be dressed as versions of Alan Partridge. Sophisticated it isn’t; that quality being distinctly off-message it would appear.

The overall look of the show is disappointing, and the decision to use huge video screens as the centre piece of each scene is a mistake. It distracts from and deadens the action, and also, importantly, takes away from any attempt at intimacy. We are always at a big stadium gig, even in the show’s more tender moments, which serves them badly. The lighting doesn’t help either. All of which underlines the question continually in mind – ‘Why is this a musical?’. It feels like a musical by numbers because that’s exactly what it is. A traditional musical structure has been superimposed on a film narrative. And it doesn’t work. The book and score are entirely forgettable; the rhymes from a Hallmark card and devoid of wit or charm. The only moments to draw widespread audience laughter are in the spoken dialogue. Not a good sign.

The principals are well-cast and work hard. Jay McGuiness perfectly embodies the child-in-man Josh; Kimberley Walsh softens beautifully from power-dressed executive to the girl looking for love she so clearly is, and Matthew Kelly gives a tremendous turn as Macmillan. Wendi Peters is a consummate professional and lends performance oomph to a pretty scant role, but, as with the kids in the cast, she is of the strident MT singing style, which arguably runs counter to emotional depth. Jobe Hart did, however, stand out as Billy last night and most certainly has a musical theatre future. It’s a shame that all this professionalism serves such an underwhelming show.

Finally, it is more than disappointing to see an all-white adult chorus in a West End musical in 2019 (representing the working population of NEW YORK!), as it is to see the only transvestite/transexual character equated with the rotten underbelly of the city. Theatre at this level has no excuse not to do better.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Alastair Muir

 


Big the Musical

Dominion Theatre until 2nd November

 

Recent shows covered by this reviewer:

 

Bare: A Pop Opera | ★★★ | June 2019
Becoming The Invisible Woman | ★★ | June 2019
Three Sisters | ★★★★ | June 2019
Chiflón, The Silence of the Coal | ★★★★ | July 2019
Grey | ★★ | July 2019
Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World | ★★★ | July 2019
Once On This Island | ★★★ | August 2019
The Weatherman | ★★★ | August 2019
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – Programme A | ★★★★ | September 2019
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – Programme C | ★★★★ | September 2019

 

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