Ghost The Musical - Piccadilly Theatre (review)
Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle
IT SEEMS incredible that 21 years have elapsed since Bruce Joel Rubin’s Ghost first captured the imagination of the cinema-going public. Even more incredible that it’s taken 21 years for him to bring this much-loved story to the stage. Now however, theatregoers can re-live every moving and uplifting moment (well almost every) in Ghost The Musical at London’s Piccadilly Theatre.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it’s about Molly (Caissie Levy) and Sam (Richard Fleeshman), two young lovers whose dreams of a future together are shattered when Sam is killed during a mugging. Trapped as a ghost between this world and the next, Sam stays close to Molly and in so doing, discovers that her life is in danger. Enlisting the help of a phoney psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Sharon D Clarke), he does all he can to save her.
First let me say that if you go expecting to see the iconic potter’s wheel scene, you’ll be disappointed because it isn’t included – Unchanged Melody is however. Neither are the young stars anything like their screen counterparts, Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. However, this latter does work very much to their advantage, giving both Fleeshman and Levy the opportunity to stamp their own identities on the roles.
This they do extremely well. Fleeshman’s Sam is by turn sexy, incredulous, angry, purposeful and finally, at peace. Whether he’s sitting on the sidelines watching events unfold or in the very thick of the action, his presence is spellbinding. In other words, he has that indefinable star quality that lights up a stage and holds the audience enrapt, proving beyond doubt what a long way he’s come since those early days in Coronation Street.
Though grief-stricken, Levy’s Molly is never mawkish and it’s impossible not to empathise with her loss and subsequent feelings of despair, not least because she has so openly worn her heart on her sleeve. Like Fleeshman, she has a strong voice and the ability to hold an audience captive – even when entirely alone on stage. As for the pair’s on-stage chemistry, it’s what makes Sam and Molly so believable.
The story also cleverly juxtaposes sadness and humour and it’s with regards to the latter that Clarke has an absolute field day. Filling Whoopi Goldberg’s shoes was never going to be easy but Clarke has overcome the challenge and gives a superb performance as the psychic who ‘didn’t know that she had it but doesn’t want it now that she’s got it’. If it wasn’t for the very fine performances of the two young stars, she would almost certainly steal the show.
There’s also good support from Andrew Langtree as Carl Bruner, the real villain of the piece; Ivan De Freitas as Willie Lopez; Adebayo Bolaji as the Subway Ghost and Mark White, whose brief tap dancing routine is a delight, as the Hospital Ghost. Full marks too for Oda Mae’s colourful and extravagant costumes and Sam’s plain, very pale blue shirt that simply but so effectively enhances his image as a ghost.
Although music and lyrics are by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, the songs aren’t instantly memorable but, as Rubin explains in the programme, “the songs are what draw you into the heart of this story”, and he likens them to the close-ups in films, describing them as “one of the ways you take the audience on the characters’ inner journeys”. And this they most certainly do.
Ghost The Musical is set in New York and Jon Driscoll’s video and projection designs – I particularly liked the Subway sequences – bring the vibrancy of the city that never sleeps into the very heart of the West End; while Hugh Vanstone’s lighting, coupled with Paul Kieve’s illusions, make the impossible possible. But here a word of warning: bright lights and flashing images are used to great effect but may not be suitable for those suffering from epilepsy.
This is undoubtedly a very fine production: musical theatre at its very best. And if the reaction of Friday night’s audience is anything to go by (July 15, 2011), it certainly won’t disappoint. But don’t take my word for it, go see for yourselves…
Read more about Ghost The Musical
Ghost The Musical is booking at the Piccadilly Theatre until October 13, 2012.