Grand Theatre, Leeds – 14 to 19 November 2016
Based on the hit 1990 film, of the same name, Ghost the Musical is, obviously, a musical with book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin and music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard.
Ghost the Musical brings us into the world of couple Molly and Sam, who’ve just moved into an apartment together in New York. Sam’s a banker, and works with friend Carl in a fast-paced world that never stops moving. Everything seems perfect for the couple. However, one night when they’re returning to their apartment, Sam is murdered, and his spirit becomes trapped between our world and the afterlife. It isn’t long before he uncovers the true motives of his old friend Carl, and enlists the help of psychic Oda Mae Brown to warn his love of the dangers coming for her. Andy Moss as Sam and Kelly Hampson (covering for the much maligned and missing Sarah Harding) as Molly provide a suitably handsome and attractive couple to steer events along. Jacqui Dubois provides the humour as psychic Oda Mae Brown and also shows-off her own vocal prowess to great effect. But Sam Ferriday and Leo Sene prove genuinely sinister as the villains of the piece, while the show’s ending – “the love inside – you take it with you” proves unexpectedly touching and is magically staged.
In films, you can make anything happen. In the theatre, it takes real ingenuity to summon up ghosts and physical disturbances from beyond the grave. Director Bob Tomson succeeds spectacularly, here with the help of the illusionist Richard Pinner.
Portraying a disembodied spirit as one of the main characters, provides plenty of opportunities for effects and tricks. Particularly effective are the instances where Sam and mugger, Willie, die and become ghosts instantly switching between their corpses on the floor and their ghostly incarnations. There’s also a neat trick when Sam walks through a door, and the scenes in the subway are quite brilliantly realised. The stage props were simple and pared down, as not to distract from the performances.
There’s a lot to like about this production, and Bill Kenwright has again showcased his fantastic ability for breathing life into high-energy musicals. The vocal performances from all principal cast members are awesome, with lyrics being laced with clarity and emotion, adding to the diverse melting pot of vibrant atmospheres. Music comes in at just the right moments to pinpoint significant changes in a character’s emotional state, as well as heightening the actions and stakes. A notable example is during Act Two, when Sam realises he has to focus all of his will and strength into making physical objects move with his new otherworldly powers – musical interludes from the Subway Ghost (Garry Lee Netley) here add to the tension nicely.
The legendary pottery wheel sequence is toned down. However, the use of Unchained Melody as a simple refrain, rather than an in-your-face number, was sweet and heartbreaking at the same time.
The end scene, when Sam makes his final ascension into Heaven is effective and beautiful, causing a few moist eyes in the house.
If you were a fan of the film, the story will have you hooked all over again. The songs, although not memorable, add to the suspense and emotion of the characters. Although a lot has been done to tone down the content for younger theatregoers, there is sexual content at the beginning, and the odd swear word let loose during the action sequences. But if you want an enjoyable night out then this is a good show to go to
In Leeds until Saturday 19 November and on tour around the UK