“Are you still mine?” A Review of “Ghost-The Musical”
I went to London on Monday night in order to attend a performance of the spectacularly beautiful “Ghost-The Musical” at the Picadilly theatre. The Musical is based on the Paramount Pictures film “Ghost” (1990) starring Patrick Swayze (as Sam Wheat), Demi Moore (as Molly Jensen) and Whoopi Goldberg (as Oda Mae Brown), it was written by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Jerry Zucker of the “Airplane” (1980) films. The film is mostly iconic for its pottery scene! I am not a big fan of romantic films in all honesty as I find them too predictable and overly cheesy, however “Ghost” was something different; its a tragic love story, and the tragedy was portrayed with the perfect mix of sadness and humour in this new musical version. I was ecstatic as for the first time in a West End Show I have seen the full original cast; the lead character Sam Wheat was portrayed by the incredibly talented Richard Fleeshman, he was formerly in “Coronation Street” (1960) playing the character Craig Harris from 2002-2006, Molly Jensen his partner was played by Broadway Actress Caissie Levy, her voice was so powerful which heightened the emotions as she played the grieving partner, Sharon D Clarke played the role of psychic Oda Mae Brown (originated by Whoopi Goldberg in the film) and was hilarious with adding the right blend of comedy to the show, her voice was also amazing bringing a more soulful sound to the music.
I have seen many spectacular shows on the west end over the years and all have been amazing but there was something about “Ghost-The Musical” that stood out and (excuse the pun) it does literally make you suspend your disbelief! The special effects were of a cinematic quality. I couldn’t believe my eyes when Sam actually walked through the door and vanished into thin air and of course near the end of the show when he is taunting evil Carl (played by Andrew Langtree) in his office, there was no one there and this guy was literally being flung across the room and messages were being typed on his computer from beyond the grave with no actor actually in sight. It was just phenomenal! The idea of having an illusionist on board of the production is ground-breaking in terms of theatre and creates a whole new dimension and a magical atmosphere. A lot of digital imagery was used throughout the show in place of 2D scenery and as previously stated it made the show that more cinematic; the scenery that stood out the most for me was the busyness of the New York setting, with the buzzing city atmosphere, at this point the actors added to this effect by walking on a conveyor belt which created a busy pace and movement. I found the whole tone and mood of the show was very bittersweet; I felt very choked up throughout the whole performance, but I think it was mainly because of the strong performances given by all the actors. The scene that sticks out in my mind is where Sam has found out the truth regarding his murder; his expression is pained, and his emotions are emphasised by digital imagery, the anger is displayed in his face as he powerfully sings “I had a Life”. Again, the digital imagery conveyed to the audience at the beginning of the show, the relationship between Molly and Sam, with a surge of photographs of them together, insinuating they have been together for a long time (hence deciding to move in together), and all the happy times they have shared. I thought one of the most beautiful images was of their hands clasping together displaying the strength of their relationship and then breaking apart the moment Sam dies, conveying that everything is now distorted and has fallen apart. The lightning in the show was also very effective, in order to portray that Sam is a ghost he constantly had a white light shone over him in order to separate him from the other human characters.
I really loved the songs in the musical, written by Dave Stewart, best known for being in the band the Eurythmics and Glen Ballard; they had a different sound to them in comparison to the Eurythmics style I was expecting. Most of them were stunning ballads; I especially loved Molly’s solo “With You”; Caissie Levy really created an empathy between the character and the audience demonstrating how lost Molly had become since losing the love of her life and the cruelty of having everything ripped away. In contrast Oda Mae Brown’s songs were a lot more upbeat and I think her number “I’m Outta Here” was much needed in order to lighten the mood at times, it was definitely your typical, fun, all singing all dancing dream sequence Broadway number; as I previously stated I liked the soulful style Sharon D Clarke brought to the performance. “Ball of Wax” sang by the hospital ghost (Played by Mark White) came in not long after Sam’s death and was also in the same vain of a showy Broadway fun number, however I felt the transition between the death scene and this number was done too quickly and maybe a more subtle song should have been used, as I wasn’t quite sure what the audience was meant to feel, obviously sadness and confusion for Sam but then almost immediately it was like the audience is supposed to be humoured; but that’s just my opinion; maybe I felt those scene’s didn’t really fit together. I liked how they kept “Unchained Melody” in as alongside the pottery scene, the song is an iconic feature in relation to “Ghost” and its just a touching song that describes Sam’s situation after being torn apart from Molly. After an emotional rollercoaster of the first half, I enjoyed how the three characters came together (Molly, Sam and Carl) to conclude it displaying each of their conflicts in “Suspend my disbelief/I had a life”, this was extremely powerful and left the audience anticipating the second half. The film version came out over 20 years ago back in 1990, therefore I liked how they had updated the story for the musical, for example when Molly is speaking to the police and they inform her Oda Mae Brown is nothing but a fraud they state the dates of all the times she committed fraud as during the last decade; I also loved the scene with the subway ghost when Sam is attempting to learn how to touch objects, “Focus” (performed by Adebayo Bolaji) was more of a rap number and definitely added a modern twist to the whole story. The villains depicted in the show were actually quite different from each other. Carl’s character was much more of a loose canon, very calculating and extremely smug, Willie Lopez (played by Ivan De Freitas) was more thuggish, I think having two different types of villains really complimented the show and added a sense of intensity.
In the film the final scene is probably my top tear-jerking moment in cinema, when Sam has finally made peace and is ready to cross over; I think nowadays what makes it that more emotional is because of the real-life death of the amazing Patrick Swayze; I actually find it difficult talking about that scene without getting emotional. By this point in the show the waterworks had really set off, and the scene did that moment in the film justice. Its just the little things in the scene such as the dialogue that makes it all the more poignant e.g. Sam’s line “I love you” and Molly simply replying “Ditto”; (if you’re a fan you will get what I mean!). As an audience we know that this is the last time they are ever going to see each other and its just so heartbreaking; that single image of Sam walking into the distance and fading away is just so emotional.
One thing I want to comment on is that Richard Fleeshman really impressed me, he has grown and developed so much as an actor and made a strong leading man, I think he definitely has a great future ahead of him. So there it is, my review on “Ghost- The Musical” I definitely recommend it to people who love the film however it is not necessary to see it first, the show is a whole, stunning, electrifying and emotional performance that I will never forget. Book Now and Always Believe…
Hayley Alice Roberts.