Jacqui Dubois as clairvoyant Oda Mae. Picture: Matt Martin

Ghost - the musical

Wolverhampton Grand


Ghost, the 1990 movie that saw attendances for pottery classes go through the roof, proved a box office hit worldwide and something of a perfect platform for its stars, Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg.

 Its conversion to a musical is less obvious than other examples of film to stage pieces such as Dirty Dancing or Footloose, not least because the movie doesn’t actually contain any songs other than its iconic use of the Righteous Brother’s hit Unchained Melody.

There are other challenges too; its other worldly plot requires a series of special effects and technical wizardry that work easily on film but require more thinking (and considerable cost) for a stage version. On top of that is the small matter of adding a score to fit the narrative and feel of the story.

 Ghost is very much a love story. Sam and Mollie, two besotted young New Yorkers, have their future happiness together obliterated in an instant when tragedy strikes one dark night. While Molly is left on earth to grieve, Sam can’t complete his journey to the next world until he steers her clear of imminent danger. Trapped somewhere between life and death, he can see her, but she can’t see or hear him. Somehow, the message needs to be got across - a channel of communication needs to be found.

 This latest touring production from producer, Bill Kenwright, is inevitably somewhat scaled down from the original West End production. The special effects and magic tricks that got people talking back in 2011 are simpler here and more suited to the confinements and technical possibilities of a touring production.

That said, the show is not reliant on its visual tricks and what is lost there is made up for in a stylish, often pulsating piece of theatre.

 Key to this show’s appeal is its impressive score. Dave Stewart’s music and lyrics are both balanced and varied, fitting mood and atmosphere with real potency. Simple, heart-warming ballads like Three Little Words and With You are countered with pacy, multi layered numbers such as Suspend My Disbelief/I Had A Life incorporating beautifully arranged counter melodies and ramped up backing vocals.

In the mix too, are a couple of out and out blues belters, delivered with delightful attack by Jacqui Dubois as Oda Mae.

At times it all feels more pop than Musical Theatre but that’s all good in this context and perhaps unsurprising given Mr. Stewart’s output with The Eurythmics. It’s a score that doesn’t remind you of something else yet is immediately catchy. A tricky balance skilfully achieved.

 Performance are uniformly strong.  Charlotte -Kate Warren gives Molly real likeability and delivers her songs with sweetness and the required emotion. She was on for this performance as understudy and grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

 Niall Sheehy as Sam meets the vocal demands with gusto and gives his character a sense of urgency as he tries to get his message across, enlisting the help of a downtown clairvoyant, Oda Mae, played with delightful strut and attitude by Dubois.

Sergio Pasquariello as Carl, the friend who isn’t quite what he seems, adds increasing menace to the plot. He even gets a few boos at the curtain call which must mean he is doing his job well.  

Alistair David’s choreography is sharp, stylised and exciting. Particularly impressive are the corporate dance numbers, reflecting a busy and bustling New York. A scene that is also mirrored by Mark Bailey’s impressive set design.

If you liked the film, you will like this. You may even like it more, given the addition of a tender and blistering score.

 Directed by Bob Tomson, Ghost runs until Saturday 26th January.

Tom Roberts


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