REVIEW: Ghost The Musical
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Intense and powerful – David Cradduck is impressed as ‘Ghost The Musical’ revisits The Mayflower, 14 March 2017
A classic 1990 film starring Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Golderg, Ghost was essentially a Sunday afternoon romantic film, a love story with a ghostly twist and a reasonably happy ending.
As the title suggests, there is a least one ghost and it is no spoiler to reveal that he is Sam, the hero of the piece, mugged and murdered in New York’s back streets so his best friend can make off with the bank’s $10m and quite possibly Sam’s girlfriend too.
Naturally, grieving partner Molly is distraught, vulnerable and heartbroken. Sam, caught between life and death is tormented by the knowledge that Molly is also in grave danger but is powerless to warn her and turns to a fraudster medium to make contact with her.
All comes good in the end – Sam learns to use his supernatural powers, best friend/villain Carl gets what’s coming to him and Sam and Molly finally reunite over the potter’s wheel before he ascends to his final resting place.
A simple enough plot and one that worked for millions of Swayze/Moore/Goldberg fans in the film. But how does it transcend to the stage, and as a musical? Actually, it does so really well.
This is the second ghostly visitation to the Mayflower in three years but by all accounts this reworked Bill Kenwright production is much more focused on the storyline and is less flashy than the 2013 version. The pace is amazing and the scene changes, depicting various parts of New York, are fast, furious and, for the most part, slick.
Of the four leading characters – Sam, Molly, Carl and psychic medium Oda Mae – for me the two leading ladies steal the show: Carolyn Maitland (originally from downtown Cowes!) as Molly gives a really intense, emotional and powerful performance throughout. She has the kind of singing voice that is perfectly suited to belting out those big songs and quiet ballads alike.
Jacqui Dubois, whose theatre credits are extensive and include Lion King – of course – is just wonderful in the semi-comedic, larger (and noisier) than life role of Oda Mae, a shopfront fraudster with an eye for a quick buck and a free pen. Her opening song, a big band, black gospel choir-influenced number that calls for a massively over the top performance, wide eyes and some clever choreography, is foot-tappingly entertaining.
Let’s not take anything away from Andy Moss (Cutting It, Hollyoaks) as dead hero Sam and Sam Ferriday as Carl – both give outstanding performances and have the power needed to sing those big numbers with clarity and feeling.
Splendid cameos include Garry Lee Netley as the Subway Ghost who, like Sam, is a tortured soul caught between life and death. The slo-mo, supernatural sequences on the subway train are dramatic and effective, successful in no small way because of Netley’s powerful presence.
Acting is particularly tricky when you can’t ‘see’ the ghost, so hats off to cast and director Bob Tomson for sustaining and maintaining that illusion throughout.
With the exception of the classic 50s hit Unchained Melody, a key element of the original film, the music by Dave Stewart (multi award winning Eurythmics partner and writer/producer) and Glen Ballard, six-time Grammy award winner, is largely unknown.
This means the sung storytelling comes across without the distraction that many musicals suffer from where the music is more important, or popular, than the story itself. Ghost employs the music to help tell the story rather than take centre stage.
Choreography is not over complex but Alistair David creates shapes, movement and colourful backdrops for a variety of chorus members and supporting cast who are not all your stereotypical dancers, being various shapes, sizes and ages. Very refreshing and so apt to see what look like ‘ordinary folk’ dancing in the context of a drama.
Catchy, moody music, dramatic staging, innovative lighting and a handful of natty, intriguing – but not over-flashy – illlusions support the cast in bringing the production to life.
Gloriously entertaining, a good yarn and judging by the standing ovation for the final line-up, Ghost The Musical is undoubtedly a popular choice for The Mayflower. More, please!
(Images – Pamela Raith)