I’m the first to admit that I was slightly obsessed with Patrick Swayze back in the day. So I may have worn out my VHS copy of the film version of Ghost. This would initially, perhaps, suggest I would be slightly wary of a musical version of one of my favourite movies.
However, I knew I was in for a treat as soon as the lights dimmed over the audience, the orchestra came to life, and the screens and lights on-stage transported us swiftly through the New York skyline. The use of film, light and visual trickery throughout the show combines brilliantly to immerse the audience fully into the story – but I especially enjoyed the filmic visuals displayed on the backdrop (or sometimes in the foreground – particularly at the beginning of Act Two with ‘Rain/Hold On’). I also loved the ‘More’ set-piece; the office workers on-stage perfectly matching the dance moves of the recorded footage behind them – very neatly done, and a visual theme that was constant throughout. Because we see so little of Sam and Molly’s relationship before his untimely death, the use of the screens to show hundreds of photographs of them having fun together helps build an image of their relationship in a very succinct way. That’s not to say the action on-stage doesn’t make their relationship obvious, but the screens definitely added an extra dimension for me.
Other noteworthy visual trickery came in the form of the subway, and its resident ghost; aptly named ‘Subway Ghost’. This was a spectacle of clever choreography, lighting, sound and scenery. It was so well done that I can’t actually describe it in a way that would do it justice.
The cast performed their roles well – it’s difficult not to watch a theatrical version of a film I loved so much growing up, without comparing the stars to the film’s actors. But Stewart Clarke and Rebecca Trehearn (Sam and Molly) were up to the challenge. David Roberts played Carl Bruner’s villain with wicked gusto and all of the musical numbers were heartfelt and powerful. With Dave Stewart on board for music and lyrics, it’s no wonder! Unfortunately, I did find the music levels a little overpowering at times– so much so that it sometimes drowned out the singing, which was a shame.
There was no drowning out Wendy Mae Brown (Oda Mae Brown), though, who arrived on stage like a breath of fresh comedic air, with her butt-shaking sidekicks taking things to a wild new level. The audience loved her, and (as with the character in the film) she provided a light-hearted interlude from the heartbreak Molly and Sam are experiencing.
The set is a work of art; another character in the show. Sam and Molly’s loft apartment comes together so slickly I found myself wondering how it got there. The same goes for the various offices, Willy Lopez’s dingy bedsit and Oda Mae’s Psychic Store. Combine this with the lighting and screens, and it’s a visual feast, even before the actors arrive.
So, I’m a convert. It may not be the 1990 film with my poster-boy Swayze, but it had solid performances from all (including the set!), beautiful lighting, outstanding dance movements and an excellent soundtrack. I would definitely recommend it.