Ghost is the story we’d all love to believe in. The classic movie featuring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg was released in 1990 and was only turned into a stage show 20 years later. For anyone who’s grown up with the iconic potter’s wheel scene, the idea of turning the movie into a musical may make you feel slightly squeamish. Despite this, the addition of songs by master musician Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and award-winning songwriter Glen Ballard makes for a different animal but one no less enjoyable.
Bill Kenright’s new production, featuring a refreshed telling of the central story, has just embarked on a UK tour. For those too young to have bumped into the tale before, Molly and Sam have just moved into a brand new apartment in Brooklyn. She’s forging a career as an artist, he’s a classic NYC, product of the 1980s city trader. One night, he’s killed in a freak encounter with a mugger on their way home. Molly is left distraught. Sam is left – wandering around in the half-life destined for all ghosts before they find their peace. He can see and hear her – but she has no idea he’s there.
Enter Oda Mae, a spiritualist who makes a slightly ropey living interpreting the messages of the dead for those still living. Except she hasn’t ever really heard the dead speak to her – until Sam wanders into her parlour. Sam’s persistence and her big, if reluctant, heart, ultimately foil a sinister plan plotted by the couple’s best friend, Carl.
For film lovers, there are some slightly spooky updates, obviously intended to make the show more relevant today. The city traders are accessorised with mobile phones, there’s a September 11th reference – which spooked me having seen the film first time around – and there’s even a rogue selfie popped into the start of the show. Unless you’re as much of a devotee of the detail as my accompanying friend, this doesn’t damage the core story.
This is a twisty turny tale and this cast have great fun telling it, helped along the way by some really strong cameos. James Earl Adair as the Hospital Ghost serves up a beautifully jazzy “You Gotta Let Go Now”. Lovonne Richards as Subway Ghost is mighty impressive. And Sadie-Jean Shirley and Jochebel Ohene Maccarthy are primly sultry as Oda Mae’s fluffers / backing singers.
The principals in the cast are all good enough to make you forget you’re not watching Swayze and Moore. Sergio Pasquriello is marvellously duplicitous – and vocally, really strong – as the snaky friend Carl. Jacqui Dubois‘ Oda Mae has a boisterous likeable presence. Niall Sheehy as Sam is likeable and genuinely touching as the man trying to communicate with his love from the other side. Last but not least, Rebekah Lowings’ Molly is sweetly tentative, wholly endearing and has such a fabulous and fabulously controlled voice that her solos are a delight.
The slick production is aided and abetted by a neat set (Mark Bailey) and brilliantly evocative lighting (Nick Richings) that somehow gets round the problem with staging a show like this, for Sam is very much alive and well throughout. There are some nice effects courtesy of illusionist Richard Pinner. Leigh Thompson‘s live band is full of soul and class. Alistair David’s choreography is nicely redolent of the boisterous thrusting eighties, even if the script has been updated. Supported by these strong foundations, the story zips along in the capable hands of director Bob Tomson.
For fans of the film and its iconic moments, the first half of this show packs more of a punch than the second. Whether or not you’re a film fan, this production of Ghost is a genuinely touching voyage into a parallel world that most of us, at some point, would love to be real.