Review: Ghost the Musical

Ghost suits its new life as a musical


I though I would hate it. I loved it.

The prospect of watching a musical version of a 21-year-old rom-com frankly left me cold. I couldn't have been more wrong. It was a totally enjoyable big-stage spectacular and, much like the rest of the audience, I came out buzzing.

The stage effects and illusions are breathtaking, the plotline is far-fetched but compelling, the comedy is laugh-out-loud funny and it all adds up to great entertainment.

This a seriously big show, with a compact cast but a huge list of production credits. And its sights are firmly set on the West End.

This is the dry run in Manchester, ironing out the wrinkles for seven weeks before transferring to the capital. Not that there were too many wrinkles from where I was sitting.

Director Matthew Warchus and his vast team have adapted the 1990 Hollywood hit with Manchester's own Richard Fleeshman taking the late Patrick Swayze's role as Sam. Jewish-Canadian actress Caissie Levy is girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore on screen). Together they manage to conjure up that elusive but necessary substance - chemistry.

Former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart provides the music, coming up with a perfectly pleasant score together with Glen Ballard, although none of the new numbers are anything like as memorable as the haunting Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers, which stood out in the film, and does again here.

But the show is much more than the sum of its parts. Its sheer scale is eyecatching, almost as impressive as the way nearly all parts of jigsaw fit together so neatly.

Sam, a Wall Street banker, is shot dead in an apparently random street robbery, but clings on as a ghost to protect his beloved Molly from danger. Bathed in a spectral blue light, he fights to be seen and heard.

The blend of film and theatre - with footage projected onto the back and on both sides of the stage - is cleverly used to bring the real and spirit world together. Fleeshman - or more likely the illusionist Paul Kieve, who provides the stage effects - wins applause when he walks through a door. And again for the stunning scene in which Fleeshman is thrown through a subway train.

I was struck by the change of tempo from the loved-up home-making opening scene, to the frenetic Wall Street buzz, the drama of the shooting and then - stroke of genius - the dead people's cabaret as Sam reluctantly joins the hereafter. Just as memorable is the performance of Sharon D Clarke, who landed the role of bogus psychic Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in the film) and who grabbed it with both hands."

Yes, but what about the potter's wheel? The much-parodied scene, as the two lovers share an intimate moment over a rising mound of wet clay, is the most famous clip of the film. Here, inevitably, it was something of an anti-climax.

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