Nothing could finish off a beautiful, sunny day better than a trip to the theatre. With an air of love about our bright bustling city, no show is more perfect than Ghost the Musical. The heart-wrenching story that defines romance and, above all, defines love.
Everyone has seen the classic 1990 film Ghost starring the late Patrick Swayze and stunning Demi Moore. It was a film I watched repeatedly growing up, believing that no couple was ever as tragic as Sam and Molly. So, on hearing that the epic blockbuster hit was being turned into a musical last year, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with high expectations.
For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, our love story is based is New York City and centred around a couple just moving into their first apartment together. They are dizzingly in love, unable to keep their hands off each other and their limbs untangled – Sam Wheat and Molly Jenson. Sam is a high-flying businessman in the world of banking and Molly is an artist who creates beautiful sculptures. Their best friend, Carl, is often around the place and works with Sam. Our tale takes a twist for the worse one night when Sam is tragically shot, leaving Molly sobbing on top of his lifeless body. The twists keep on coming as we see Sam stuck in limbo, putting the pieces of his death together, discovering that not all was so perfect in his perfect life.
It was the thought of these extraordinarily known characters singing that originally made me uncertain. However, thanks to the stunning work of writers Bruce Joel Rubin, Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard not only does it work, it’s breathtaking. The music is so powerful that it vibrates through you and the lyrics are so moving, you can’t help but tear up from start to finish.
The show opens with a stunning overture. Spots of pink and silver light up the screen covering the stage, an enlarged image of Sam and Molly embraced in a kiss filling the space. As the picture fades away and the music builds, “GHOST” is projected onto the screen and you can feel the 1,200 audience members take in a breath at the sheer power of the music.
The title fades away and through the gauze type screen we see a large, dusty room covered in sheets. Enter Sam, Molly and Carl in blue denim dungarees and white T-shirts. We quickly find out this is to be the couple’s new home and in their excitement Sam, our heroic Mark Evans, pulls Molly, our kind-hearted Siobhan Dillon, into his arms and spins her around. This is an action that occurs a lot during the play and it makes every girl wish they had a six-foot-four-dreamboat to swing her around!
Molly begins to sing ‘Here right now’ – a song full of positivity and hope for the future, an exciting new chapter in their lives. The couple’s love for each other is beautiful, effortless and continues to grow.
The scenery swiftly changes and we see the couple settling into the apartment. Sam is staring out into the abiss and Molly, so head over heels for this man, states ‘I love you Sam, I really love you’. He replies, “Ditto”. The word that made the film. She is slightly stung by this so he tries to bring her around with a guitar and some comical hip movements in his serenade ‘Unchained melody’. The song that made the film.
After a big show number (‘More’) that shows us a bit into the business world of our two male leads, Sam and Molly are at dinner and she confronts him on why he can’t seem to say I Love You. This leads into a gorgeous song, ‘Three little words’. As they sing and argue and look longingly at one another the scenery moves seamlessly around them on their walk home. The song is brutally interrupted by a man demanding for Sam’s wallet. Suddenly the mood has changed, the lights darken and the couple freeze. A gun is pointed at Sam and all he has to do to live is hand over his wallet.
Through sheer trick of the eye we suddenly have our Sam, shouting down stage as the mugger runs off, and the deceased Sam, lying unmoving, with Molly hysterically crying over him.
This is where the magic really begins.
Our world comes crashing down as the deceased Sam is taken off on a gurney and our Sam follows, dumbstruck. At the hospital everything slows, Molly walks straight by Sam, crying into his jacket, his own corpse following in a body bag.
After a fairly odd encounter with some other ghosts in the hospital (with an almost unnecessary tap number), Sam finds himself outside a gritty looking psychic parlour. He watches an elderly lady enter and follows her inside through a beaded curtain. The parlour is owned by Ms Oda May Brown, played to perfection by Sharon D Clarke. Oda May’s assistants, dressed in tacky pink two-pieces, set the stage of the psychic’s domain. They sing a big brassy number to introduce their boss, full of step digs and high clicks. When we’re finally graced with Oda May’s presence, she’s bigger and better than you could wish for. Girl did Whoopi proud.
Once we’ve established that this ‘fake’ psychic can actually hear Sam, the fun begins. He tries to stress to her that he now knows the reasons for his death and that Molly could be in, potentially, a lot of danger. Will she help him? Will she hell. After a long chorus of “99 bottles of beer on the wall” he finally convinces her to go and visit Molly, with him at her side.
From here on in, the story becomes a vivid whirl of laughter, tears and heart-string-pulling. Sam meets a lot of people on the way who can help him, hurt him and who can’t hear him. The twist within the plot is heart-wrenching, betrayal at it’s very best.
The visual images throughout the show are stunning, with people duplicating as they die, Sam’s bodily parts going through objects and doors, and sometimes even disappearing altogether. There’s a reason Hugh Vanstone won Best Designer at the What’s On Stage Awards.
The ensemble are a brightly-coloured collection of business people, downtown everymen and very sharp dancers. They move as swiftly as the set and support the entire backbone of the musical. My personal favourite is ‘I’m Outta Here’, a fantastic number performed by Miss Clarke, where the ensemble are fierce, sexy and funny.
The cast are a stellar team supporting Evans and Dillon in their heavy lead roles. Andrew Langtree, who plays Carl Bruner, was off on this performance so I was treated to a performance by understudy Paul Ayres. Ayres was incredibly strong, he had a fantastic tone to his voice and portrayed the best-friend-turned-villain perfectly. Sharon D Clarke steals the show, having played Oda May Brown from opening night last year, she’s totally relaxed in the role and has had time to play with her character. She is the comic relief we so need in the midst of tragedy.
The other villain, Willy Lopez is played disgustingly well by Ivan De Freitas, who makes your skin crawl. The insane Subway Ghost, played by Craig Stein, is a mad man who’s been in limbo for far too long. He’s a small role playing a big part, which he does to perfection.
The music, the performances and the love are all breathtaking in this show. If you, like myself, are a fan of the film, I promise that you wont be disappointed.
Review by Rebecca Birch (Twitter: @BirchR)
Ghost The Musical Official Website at http://ghostthemusical.com/
Content updated 1st May 2014