Book: Bruce Joel Rubin
Music: Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard
Lyrics: Bruce Joel Rubin, Dave Stewart, Glen Ballard
Director: Matthew Warchus
Reviewer: Mary Tapper
If you are going to take an iconic film from the 90s, starring such huge names as Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg, and rework it for the stage, then you had better do it well. Does Ghost the Musical manage to add to the film or does it leave us wondering why they bothered?
The good news is that the production has great style and panache. The story follows the couple Sam and Molly, happily embracing loft living in New York City and beginning their lives together. Sam is murdered and becomes the eponymous Ghost, desperately using a fake psychic Oda Mae Brown, the only person who can hear him, to tell Molly that his murder is not a random mugging and that she is in great danger.
The set is stunning, with projections used to create both atmosphere and special effects. The cityscape appears, rain falls, trains charge by and different locations are conjured up with ease. The physical tricks also enhance the production. At several points throughout the production when deaths occur, it seems that “ghosts” are simultaneously produced….in the blink of an eye the audience is fooled and wonders at how the effect is produced. Paul Kieve, an expert in illusions has been employed in devising the show, and this really pays off. All the effects are impressive and seamless and, with such slick timing, and confident execution, it is easy to sit back and admire. Other highlights include a roller-coaster ride on a subway train with a resident ghost, played with great energy by Stevie Hutchinson, and the moment when Sam works out how to walk through a door.
With such great production values it seems a shame to point out that the musical does have flaws. The first half overstays its welcome, with the music rather strident and repetitive. Few tunes stick in the mind and the audience are not really drawn into the relationship between the two leads. The second half is far more successful, as the music seems to gain energy and the story momentum. Acting is generally good with the two leads, Rebecca Trehearn as Molly, and Stewart Clarke as Sam, being well cast, and Wendy Mae Brown proving equal to the task of filling the boots originally occupied by Whoopi Goldberg in the film. Her number ‘I’m Outta Here’ is a real highlight of the show and along with ‘Nothing Stops Another Day’ performed beautifully by Trehearn. and the well-known ‘Unchained Melody’, they provide the stand out songs.
Choreography is modern and used mainly to evoke crowd scenes and the hustle bustle of an office environment. Movement throughout the musical is full of energy and precision and the scenes involving Hutchinson as the Subway Ghost allow us to admire the acrobatic skills and impressive timing of all the cast.
With so much to watch and admire in the production it would be easy to overlook the importance of the storytelling and the emotional involvement of the characters. After such a loud and hectic production it comes as a slight surprise that the ending is quite touching, quiet, and ultimately satisfying.
So is the show a success? The musical numbers are not that memorable but with impressively special effects and an imaginative set and production it provides great entertainment. Well worth a visit!
Photo: Sean Ebsworth | Runs until 8th March