In normal times, ‘Sleepless’ would probably not be a musical worth the detour to Wembley Park. But these are not normal times.
An all-singing adaptation of the original screenplay to ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ (but for whatever reason not allowed to call itself ‘Sleepless in Seattle’), it’s a slender story garnished with peppily pedestrian songs that follows the converging lives of Baltimore-based journalist Annie and Seattleite architect Sam, who she falls for after hearing him [checks notes] mourn the death of his wife on the radio.
The 1993 film was a smash because it had stars Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks to luminesce over the cracks. In this version by Michael Burdette, Robert Scott and Brendan Cull, ex-pop stars Kimberley Walsh and Jay McGuiness are absolutely likeable enough but clearly not in the same league as their megastar forebears.
Here’s the thing, though.
THEY’VE STAGED AN ACTUAL MUSICAL. WITH SONGS AND COSTUMES AND SETS AND DANCING AND PEOPLE TOUCHING.
It’s the blessed, deceptive normalcy of it all that really lands in Morgan Young’s production. If this was six months ago, ‘Sleepless’ would be outclassed by a dozen flashier musicals. But now it’s the only show in town, and being sniffy about it is like being sniffy about the offer of a turkey twizzler when you haven’t eaten for a month.
The Troubadour is a gargantuan space, that can squeeze a fair few hundred souls in under social-distancing restrictions. You’d struggle to do this with the cramped Victorian and Edwardian playhouses of the West End. There is a rigorous, and I’m sure very expensive, health-and-safety regime allowing this all to happen. But if you can stage this in the social-distancing era, then surely the possibilities of what else you can stage at the moment are greater than most of us had imagined.
‘Sleepless’ has not given us a new musical classic, but it’s maybe given us something better: hope.