La Jolla composer Anthony Leigh Adams gets to the heart of ‘Sideways: The Musical’

"Sideways: The Musical" features music by La Jolla resident Anthony Leigh Adams.
“Sideways: The Musical” features music by La Jolla resident Anthony Leigh Adams.
(Provided by Anthony Leigh Adams)

People in your Neighborhood


“Music really adds emotion to a story more than any dialogue ever could,” says La Jolla resident and composer Anthony Leigh Adams. And he has the chops to prove it, having written the score and songs for “Sideways: The Musical,” based on the Rex Pickett novel “Sideways” and the 2004 film of the same name.

Lakeshore Records and Broadway Records digitally released the original cast recording of “Sideways: The Musical” on Aug. 18, and a CD release is scheduled for next month, though the stage play is still in development. The recording features original songs with music by Adams and lyrics by Adams and Pickett. The cast on the recording includes Devin Archer, Ruby Lewis, Ryan Quinn, James Byous, Emily Goglia, Juliette Goglia, Britton Sparkman and San Diego’s Rebecca Jade.

A non-musical version of “Sideways” was staged at La Jolla Playhouse in 2013.

“Sideways” follows main character Miles Raymond, a divorced, failed writer and wine connoisseur who lives in Santa Monica. Miles is pinning his hopes on his latest novel landing a publishing deal to hoist him out of his despondent state. Miles takes his soon-to-be-married best friend, Jack Manse, a C-list character actor and erstwhile TV director, on a wine-tasting road trip through California’s Santa Ynez Valley as his “best man” present to Jack. Their adventure devolves into a bawdy, wine-fueled pleasure fest. But when Miles and Jack encounter two extraordinary women, their holiday in wine country takes an unexpected turn.

To turn the story into a musical, Adams turned to his lifelong exposure to musical theater and the entertainment industry to come up with new songs and scenes to bring it new life.

“The music helps fill out the places in the show that need expansion and keep the famous scenes that everyone wants to see,” he said. “The new scenes and songs ... let us expand certain characters. The women’s characters are as big as the men’s on the road trip. It balances the story. Because even though ‘Sideways’ is funny, the reason it resonates with people is that it is a human-driven story based on a man confronting failure. Wine is the setting, but the story is about being a flawed human. It’s a rich experience.”

La Jolla resident Anthony Leigh Adams is songwriter for "Sideways: The Musical."
(Provided by Anthony Leigh Adams)

“If you want romance, despair or humor, the right music makes it come alive.”

— Anthony Leigh Adams

There are 18 songs on the “Sideways: The Musical” album, with another being written. “I think they capture the spirit of the story,” Adams said. “[I’m] very happy with the final product. The singers inhabited the characters and sang the songs with depth and emotion.”

For those who want to listen to the soundtrack without seeing the musical, “if you play it beginning to end, you can track the journey of the story,” Adams said. “In the CD that is coming out next month, there is a context statement for each song, and that tells what is going on. But even without that, you can have it as a listening experience.”

Adams grew up in San Diego with a family who directed productions for the San Diego Opera. “I grew up in the chorus,” he said. “If my dad staged ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ I would be a Munchkin. I also did rock bands in school, but my favorite thing was musical theater. So it’s natural for me to see where songs come in, how they can convey mood.”

Adams and his wife, Christina, spent 15 years in Los Angeles working on various film and television projects. It was there that Adams’ love of music in film deepened.

“We took a course at USC and they played the most iconic scenes from ‘Jaws’ and ‘Psycho’ with no music,” he said. “There was no tension. There was no terror. Music cuts through your brain and goes to your heart. If you want romance, despair or humor, the right music makes it come alive.”

The Adamses moved to La Jolla during the COVID-19 pandemic because “our families are in La Jolla, so we spent every holiday here, always loved it here. So we feel fortunate to come here and get back to our old home and continue our work.”

The “Sideways” recording is available on Apple Music, Amazon and Spotify. ◆