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When Harry Met Sally (Tour - Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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When Harry Met Sally has appeared on the West End stage and toured the UK previously, albeit with poor results. Miscasting did not help, as both Alyson Hannigan and Gaby Roslin both struggled in the role made famous by Meg Ryan. Thankfully for this current tour, the casting is spot on.

Based on the film by Rob Reiner with a cracking script by Nora Ephron, the play has been adapted Marcy Kahan leading to some small changes, but the iconic scenes remain, as does the laughter and the central premise. Can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way? This is the view of Harry Burns (Jamie Hill). His friend Sally (Sarah Jayne Dunn) does not agree and we follow their friendship for twelve years, willing them to get together.

Michael Gyngell's fast paced direction means that scenes are short and sweet. It's almost as if they have been edited to keep the laughter flowing. This works well, but Tim McQuillen-Wright's basic set design means that props are continually being carried on and off the stage and at times, this does prove to be distracting.

The addition of Jamie Cullum's music features on all of the publicity material as a unique selling point but essentially, he simply covers famous tracks such as "It Had To Be You." If I am perfectly honest, these songs work better in the hands of the wonderful Harry Connick Jnr, recently seen crooning on American Idol

As a play, the material is slim, but if you want to see your favourite scenes from a timeless romantic comedy, you wil not go home disappointed. But, there are times when you do think, what is the point when you could simply rent the DVD? There is something special though that will keep you hooked to this stage version of the classic rom com and that is the cast.

As best friends Marie and Jack, both Kosha Engler and Luke Rutherford have superb comic timing and they make more of these slim roles than is on the page. They are a joy to watch, as they bury any memories you have may have of Carrie Fisher and the late Bruno Kirby.

Hill is brilliant as the flawed male protagonist, Harry. His American accent is flawless and he delivers Ephron's lines like bullets, but also conveys his character's softer side with ease. He is matched ably by Dunn who not only handles the "I'm having what she's having" scene incredibly well, but she also makes the role of Sally her own, bringing poignancy where required. The couples' relationship is totally believable as these two actors have genuine chemistry.

If you are a fan of the movie and romatic comedies, this is the ideal play for you. Sure, it's not ground breaking or terribly original, but the cast do their best to make you think you have not seen it all before and they do achieve this with panache.


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