“Is Sarah Harding really that bad in Ghost?” This seems to be the question on everyone’s lips. Critics and audience alike have not been too kind to the Girls Aloud star. While the release of the original film in 1990 turned Demi Moore into the highest-paid actress in film history, Harding’s debut theatre role, as the leading lady Molly, is unlikely to set her up for a successful career in acting. She does have a lovely, gentle voice, but the stage of Popstars: The Rivals is a world away from the theatre, where trained actors belong. However, the Girls Aloud star cannot be the only thing to blame for the many empty seats at the Edinburgh Playhouse on opening night.
Writer Bruce Joel Rubin had previously turned down offers to adapt the film into a musical. However, in 2011, he gave in and it finally appeared on stage in the West End. Perhaps the iconic film should have been laid to rest. This new production with original music and staging has taken a step too far from the original. This Ghost did not need to come back to life; it lived a full life of success and now it has come back to haunt us.
Harding’s portrayal of Molly lacks character and chemistry with her dead lover Sam, and it is so obvious when she messes up her lines: “psychic files” are surely not a a thing? If they are, it would be very interesting to read the “psychic file” the police have on Oda Mae. Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for her role, Jacqui Dubois deserves an award for making this production bearable. Dubois plays the role as the gospel singing medium alongside Hollyoaks star Andy Moss, who replaces Patrick Swayze as Sam. He’s talented, she’s hilarious, and the chemistry and banter between the two characters luckily save this production.
On the other hand, the unconvincing, embarrassing scenes in which the baddies are dragged to hell and ghosts fling themselves on to the floor as they “enter” Oda Mae’s body, as well as amateur choreography reminiscent of a school production, and a very irritating character, the Subway Ghost, add to the dislikeability of this production. The design by Mark Bailey crowds the stage – their Brooklyn loft, the New York City skyline, the train – but is admittedly impressive.
The moral of the story is to say I love you, before it’s too late, because you might not get the chance to come back as a ghost and sing it as you disappear into the clouds of heaven. We already said I love you to Ghost, don’t ruin that affection.