I hadn’t gone to see Ghost The Musical primarily because I’m a bit old-fashioned and prefer my musicals pop-free! However, off I went with my pre-conceptions and cynical demeanour to the Piccadilly Theatre. And while I have to admit I was wrong to assume a new musical based on a film with a pop music composer would be bad, I wasn’t as pleasantly surprised as I thought I would be.
The one thing that did not disappoint was that the book stayed as close to the plot of the film as possible. As a fan of the original film, I’m glad that Bruce Joel Rubin does make sure all the iconic moments are there, the pottery wheel, the subway, typing on Carl’s computer. The dialogue is easy flowing, and the characters are exactly how we expect them to be.
The problem with basing your musical on a hugely successful film is that you already know people like the story, and so it relies more heavily on telling the story through music. As soon as the curtain went up, I was waiting for the moment Sam learns of Carl’s treachery, and I spent the first hour waiting for it, which meant I wasn’t concentrating properly on the lyrics, no matter how well the cast were doing.
I had already heard some excerpts of the music (written by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics’ fame), and really loved the opening number “Here Right Now” with Molly (played by Siobhan Dillon) and Sam (Mark Evans), with its sharp contrast to the haunting “Overture”. Dillon and Evans have lovely voices that blend well together and both felt very confident in their fairly new roles. “With You” was another favourite of mine, a gut-wrenching ballad which Dillon performed with heart.
Special mention to Sharon D Clarke as Oda Mae Brown – she is an effortlessly cool performer and her comedic timing is faultless.
I have to say I really liked the choreography by Ashley Wallen, with its sharp angular movements and Smooth Criminal-esque leans, which were well executed by the ensemble. However, I couldn’t help but feel for the ensemble as the plot leans so heavily on the leads, there isn’t many scenes for them to really sink their teeth into. I don’t think this is the fault of either the director Matthew Warchus or Wallen, it’s just the way the story is written and there aren’t many places to write in “extra” scenes for crowds. Having said that, there was some really interesting physical theatre in the subway scenes.
The area that really stands out in this production is the technical aspect. Paul Kieve the illusionist for Ghost The Musical has quite the CV, with Matilda and The Phantom Of The Opera tour on there – and his quality of work is shown in the “deaths” and making Sam “walk” through walls. Also impressive was the use of video and projections by designer Jon Driscoll, creating the backdrop, weather and mood for each scene.
Lighting designer Hugh Vanstone has a neat idea to bathe Sam in a cool, ghostly white spotlight, whereas Molly had a warm yellower light.
On the whole, I enjoyed the evening, but I reserve a full hearty standing ovation simply because I’m not sure the story (which I love) and the music (which I liked) gelled enough. But, I guess that’s my thigh-slapping “let’s do a show in the barn!” background talking. 😉
It’s a solid, well-produced musical that will undoubtedly please most fans of this genre.
Reviewed by @Anna_Comical_