'Sleepless' for good reason
Jeff Arch gets a new lease on life with Pasadena Playhouse adaptation of his ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ film script
By Carl Kozlowski 05/23/2013
For the past two decades, Jeff Arch has been living the dream of every screenwriter, penning a timeless classic that audiences still eagerly watch. As creator of the romantic-comedy classic “Sleepless in Seattle,” Arch not only experienced the thrill of seeing his first script acted out by the two top Hollywood stars — Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan — but also experienced watching it soar to $120 million blockbuster status and his own Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Of course, it’s rare for someone to stay on top in show business, and “Sleepless” has remained his greatest triumph. Arch has managed to keep working on scripts that were bought but not produced, and as an in-demand writing teacher at conferences around the globe.
But this weekend, Arch has yet another twist to his fairytale story, getting a chance to ride another wave of success that’s even more improbable than the first one, with the Pasadena Playhouse making “Sleepless in Seattle: The Musical” its newest show and Arch writing the non-musical portion of the adaptation.
Now he just has to nervously watch to see if the public loves it as much this time, and in enough numbers to take it all the way to Broadway.
“I really am excited, but I don’t have the words to compare it to the first time, especially because 20 years ago we were ramping up because the movie was going to open in a week,” says Arch. “We had no idea if the public would love it. It was a love story in which the couple doesn’t meet ‘til the end. Well, the public certainly took it to heart, but now it’s 20 years later, we’re about to do it all over again, and I’m just as nervous. We have top-notch talent working at the top of their game, super-talented people, but we’ll just have to see.”
The new play stars Tim Martin Gleason and Chandra Lee Schwartz in the roles of Hanks’ and Ryan’s characters, Sam and Annie, who fall in love despite living on opposite ends of the country. Sam is a widower in Seattle whose son calls a national radio show hoping to find a new mom. When he takes the phone from his son and starts talking about the magic he had with his late wife, Annie falls for him while listening to the same show from Baltimore.
Suddenly, Sam gets thousands of requests from women to date him, while Annie is torn by the fact that she’s already engaged. But driven by the romantic finale of the movie classic “An Affair to Remember,” Annie persuades Sam to meet her anyway atop the Empire State Building and find true love once again.
Surprisingly, Arch used to hate watching “An Affair to Remember.”
“Back in 1974 in college, I had just about had enough of watching ‘An Affair to Remember’ and I turned to my girl with the most sarcastic comment of all time and I saw her in a puddle of tears,” Arch recalls. “I had to stop in awe of the power of that moment. I thought, ‘What if they never meet except on the tower on Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day?’
“When you’re a writer, your brain is like a sloppy storage, the things that don’t get away from you, you pull from that like a wildcat,” Arch continues. “I remembered a bad date form 1974 and that was the start of this script. I wanted to drive the audience crazy with whether they get together or not, and we do have them appear to get together for good.”
“Sleepless in Seattle: The Musical” begins Friday and continues through June 23 at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are $30 to $145. Call (626)356-7529 or visit pasadenaplayhouse.org.