Review: Jack Foley
WHEN you think of When Harry Met Sally, you tend to think
of orgasms or at least one, in particular, as demonstrated,
so memorably, by Meg Ryans movie character, in the middle
of a crowded diner.
Therefore, one of the main reasons for going to see this stage
version, at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, is to see just
how they recreate one of modern Hollywoods most talked-about
sequences. So was it good for me?
In general terms, yes, When Harry Met Sally is a satisfying
night at the theatre, the type of which is rather like going to
watch a really good romantic movie/popcorn flick at the movies.
Its light, frothy, funny and romantic, and, for the most
part, extremely well-played, by Luke Perry (formerly of Beverly
Hills 90210) and Alyson Hannigan (formerly of Buffy).
It cant be easy filling the shoes of Meg Ryan or Billy
Crystal, but while there are moments you may find yourself rushing
to make comparisons, for the most part, this couple succeed in
making the roles their own.
And when it comes to the big set piece moment, which marks the
halfway point of the evening, the climax is worthy of the hearty
round of applause it received from the audience.
The sequence in question, for those who dont know, features
Harry and Sally in a restaurant, discussing the merits of sex.
Harry believes that no woman has ever had to fake an orgasm in
his company, while Sally maintains that he wouldnt be able
It is just the latest in a long line of debates between the two,
about the nature of relationships, and the differences between
men and women.
On this occasion, however, Sally gains the upper-hand, faking
an orgasm in the middle of the restaurant, to the horror of Harry
and the delight of just about everyone else!
Hannigan, who is no stranger to putting herself in embarrassing
sexual positions, as evidenced by her performances in the American
Pie series (this one time, at band camp), rises
to the challenge with aplomb, and fully earns her vocal acclaim.
It is a genuinely crowd-pleasing moment, and probably worth the
price of admission alone.
But then the rest of the evening is fun, too, thanks to Marcy
Kahans spiky adaptation of Nora Ephrons original script,
and Loveday Ingrams effective direction, which cleverly
zips from scene to scene, with only a minimal amount of set design.
The story itself features the age-old debate surrounding the
differences between the sexes, as argued by two articulate Manhattan-based
singletons, Harry and Sally.
The stage version begins in 1987, with Sally fresh out of college
and Harry fresh out of law school, and runs through the 90s, culminating
in the Y2K New Years Eve of 1999.
In that time, Harry makes a couple of passes at Sally, and they
form an unlikely friendship, using each other as a sounding board
for their respective relationship failures.
Yet, lurking constantly in the background, whenever they meet,
is Harrys initial assertion that a man and a woman cannot
be friends without having sex - a point which seems to become
more pertinent the closer the friends become.
When the inevitable happens, however, there are still many hurdles
to jump before the couple can find true happiness.
With its sharp-eyed commentary on the nature of relationships,
its wry observations regarding men's fear of commitment, and women's
relationship dependency, When Harry Met Sally is a terrific
think-piece, told in a perky, light-hearted manner.
And whatever you may think of the performances, there's no denying
that couples everywhere might be talking through some of the questions
it raises afterwards.
That said, there is plenty to enjoy in this production, not least
the charisma of the lead duo.
Hannigan, for her part, can occasionally be caught striving too
hard to be like Meg Ryan, but she never stops being likeable and
it is clear, from the energy she exudes, that she is literally
living her dream of appearing in the West End.
And while Perry may lack the sharp comic timing of Billy Crystal,
he more than makes up for it in looks (the sight of his exposed
bum had some of the audience gasping), while his decision to play
it a little more laid back and every day works in his favour.
Of the support players, Jake Broder, as Jack, and Sharon Small,
as Marie, provide their fair share of laughs, while the likes
of Richard Teverson and Peter Swander frequently crop up as incidental
characters, either working out in the gym, or drinking in a bar,
as the central scenarios unfold around them. It is credit to them
that they all make an impression in some way.
The sets, too, are imaginatively done, though minimal, while
the video installations, in which elderly couples reflect on how
they met, provide a nice comic diversion for viewers while the
When Harry Met Sally may not be the stuff of classic theatre,
but it's good, flirtatious, socially aware fun, which should help
draw a wider crowd to the West End.
And it unfolds in such a way that audiences really should be
screaming 'yes, yes, yes' by the time they reach that final kiss...
When Harry Met Sally, at Theatre Royal Haymarket, Adapted
by Marcy Kahan; Directed by Loveday Ingram; Design by Ultz; Lighting,
Nigel Edwards; Sound, John Owens; Music, Ben Cullum; Music, Jamie
Cullum; Producer, James Tod. WITH: Luke Perry, Alyson Hannigan.
Tickets: Seating Prices: Stalls £40; Royal Circle £40,
£37.50; Upper Circle £26, £19; Gallery £12.
For 16 weeks only!