Reviews are coming in for In Dreams, the new Roy Orbison musical from the creators of & Juliet.
Director Luke Shepherd and writer David West Read, who scored a hit with West End – and now Broadway – success & Juliet, are hoping that lightning strikes twice with their new musical In Dreams.
First announced late last year, the show features music legend Roy Orbison’s most iconic songs, in a story about the former lead singer of a country rock band who, at a critical moment in her life, throws a party in a family-run Mexican restaurant to reconnect with old friends, while keeping her deeper motivations a secret.
In Dreams is playing at Leeds Playhouse to 5 August 2023, and then playing Toronto’s CAA Theatre from September to December 2023. Rumours are circulating of a West End transfer, although no details have been announced.
The Leeds production stars Tony Award-winner Lena Hall (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) in the lead role, alongside West End favourite Oliver Tompsett (Wicked, & Juliet, We Will Rock You, Pretty Woman, Kinky Boots) and Noël Sullivan (Hear’Say, School of Rock).
The cast also includes Manuel Pacific (West Side Story, City of Angels), Gabriela García (A Streetcar Named Desire, West Side Story), Sian Reese-Williams (Craith, Emmerdale), Alma Cuervo, Richard Trinder, Leon Craig, Mark Peachey, Fabiola Ocasio, Hannah Ducharme, and Pablo Gómez; and band includes Patrick Hurley – Music Director/Keys, Steve Bramwell – Guitar, David Keech – Percussion, Rachel Steadman – Violin/Viola and Gordon Davidson – Electric Bass/Double Bass.
In Dreams is written by Emmy and Golden Globe-winner David West Read, who was a writer and Executive Producer on Schitt’s Creek, and wrote & Juliet.
Director of the show Luke Sheppard (& Juliet, My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?) is also about to direct new West End musical The Little Big Things at @sohoplace theatre (2 September to 25 November 2023).
Also in the creative team for In Dreams are Choreographer Fabian Aloise (Evita, Bring It On, Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder); Set Design by Arnulfo Maldonado (A Strange Loop); Costume Design by Fay Fullerton (Mandela, The Drifters Girl); Lighting Design by Howard Hudson (& Juliet); Musical Supervisor Catherine Jayes (The Color Purple); Sound Designer Tom Marshall; Musical Director Patrick Hurley; Video Designer George Reeve; Casting Director Annelie Powell CDG; Stephen Kopel Casting Director (US). Their associates include: Tania Azevedo; Associate Director; Paris Green Associate Choreographer; Oscar Escobedo Associate Designer (US); Verity Sadler Associate Designer (UK); Laura Hunt Costume Supervisor; Callum Wills Sound Associate; and Alice Walters Casting Assistant.
Read reviews from The Times and more, with further reviews to be added through the day.
In Dreams reviews
"Marketing shorthand might call it “the Roy Orbison musical” but that would suggest another pop biopic treatment, which this is not."
"Although it uses Orbison’s songs — I Drove All Night, Only the Lonely, Crying and more — the story is of a sometime American rock singer (a throaty-voiced Lena Hall) who has been given a terminal cancer diagnosis and organises a goodbye party for her former bandmates."
"Hall and Tompsett have a chemistry unusual among stage lovers. “Why can’t I go off alone and die like an elephant?” the stricken rock goddess weeps. The moral of the tale is that if you love them, tell them. This new show could do with a couple of trims but it sent me home in a wistful daze."
"Roy Orbison’s hits lift an irresistible show"
"Death has rarely felt so exuberant as it does in this gloriously irreverent musical, which channels the spirit of Roy Orbison for a story of hopes and dreams that’s so cheesy it would give your average Roquefort an identity crisis. The Schitt’s Creek writer David West Read pulls out all the emotional stops for this New Mexico-set tale of Kenna, a country-rock singer who checks into a joint specialising in margaritas, tacos and memorial services for a reunion with a twist."
"Luke Sheppard’s pacy, colourful production takes Mexico’s Day of the Dead as its inspiration"
"In the true tradition of feelgood musicals, a story unfolds for everybody on Arnulfo Maldonado’s ebullient, cluttered set, filled with vintage neon signs."
"In a universally strong cast (not least Leon Craig as Tom, the band’s unashamed fanboy), Hall and Tompsett provide a credible and funny emotional core as the wild-at-heart exes. A rigor mortis-defying evening all round."
"Roy Orbison jukebox musical is smart and sweet"
"The songs of the big O are used in crafty ways in David West Read’s moving, celebratory story about getting a band back together"
"The crafting is neatly worked, in ways funny, touching and schmaltzy. Songs are delivered as if dialogue, moving the action forward; as monologues, revealing characters’ inner thoughts; are sung to one another by characters, as a way of exploring their relationships; or are delivered in performance by the actor-musicians."
"Lena Hall – compelling"
"In early scenes the setup can feel forced, as numerous storylines are set spinning (with occasional wobbles into hokum). Sheppard’s directorial pacing and Fabian Aloise’s choreography keep things moving, though, and lovely, pitch-perfect performances from all the company draw us into this affecting (if sometimes cheesy), celebration of life and the loving connections that make it worth living."
"In Dreams is a musical midlife crisis that makes a fitting tribute to Roy Orbison"
"So the big challenge for the new Orbison jukebox musical, led by American actress and singer Lena Hall, was whether it could live up to that extraordinary voice. Written by David West Read — the author of the Max Martin catalogue musical & Juliet — the show has all-too-transparent designs on our tear ducts. But as Orbison himself might have said of Hall and the cast's mighty singing: they've got it."
"... ingeniously, West Read makes the songs fit the story seamlessly, as the friends gather to lament — and celebrate their lives with Kenna. At its best, the production, directed by Luke Sheppard, has the atmosphere of a gig, with the silver-haired audience swaying and singing along."
"None of the pain here matches that of Orbison, who lost a wife and children of his own. But this is surely a moody, broody must for lovers of this rock'n'roll colossus."
"Margaritas and mortality in Roy Orbison musical"
"David West Read’s jukebox show brings Orbison’s hits together around an earnest but charmingly performed story of grief"
"Jukebox musicals tend to be all about the feelgood factor. It’s ambitious, then, that David West Read – the writer of & Juliet – has chosen to use Roy Orbison’s songs to consider the experiences of death and grief."
"Within this structure, the show works hard to pack in as many Orbison hits as possible. Read does a good job of coherently stringing the songs together, yet it sometimes feels as though the dialogue – entertaining though much of it is – serves simply to launch us from one familiar tune to the next. That said, Luke Sheppard’s production does some gorgeous, playful things with the music."
"The show is best when focusing on the quartet of one-time bandmates as they reminisce about the past and come to terms with the present. It’s all rather earnest, but the charm of the performances and the strength of the music just about carry it through to a conclusion that is – despite the subject matter – feelgood after all."
"Roy Orbison's music fuels a grown-up jukebox musical"
"Roy Orbison’s back catalogue provides a poignant backdrop to David West Read’s grown-up jukebox musical about love and loss"
"At face value, the back catalogue of legendary singer-songwriter Roy Orbison seems like an odd choice for a jukebox musical. His complex song structure and dark emotional range are a far cry from the upbeat pop or rock sounds of ABBA, Queen or Take That. Yet it’s author David West Read and director Luke Sheppard – the team behind the vibrantly poppy & Juliet – who have created this refreshingly thoughtful and rather poignant show."
"The success of this show rests on our affection for Kenna, and Broadway’s Lena Hall is both captivating and convincing as the musician. Behind the wry comebacks and salty language, there’s a vulnerability to the character in which Hall grounds her performance."
"Sheppard’s production is warm, the performances accomplished and Read’s book, for all its issues, is a gently subversive take on the genre."
"Roy Orbison musical is another bona fide hit for & Juliet team"
"& Juliet‘s director Luke Sheppard and bookwriter David West Read reunite for this new musical"
"One of the strengths of Luke Sheppard’s production is the quality of performances from a main cast of nine and four supports – and, also, the equal spread of opportunities to shine."
"Of course, none of this would be possible without Orbison’s wonderfully evocative songs, with Patrick Hurley leading a sextet in underpinning the action as well as accompanying full-blooded renditions."