Ghost The Musical
Theatre Royal until May 14
Adapted for the stage by Bruce Joel Rubin
Music by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard
Photo by Jeff Busby
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
Will the stage musical version of the hit 1990 film that starred Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore live up to the hype? That was the question that many were asking on the opening night of Ghost The Musical at the Theatre Royal.
As you probably know, Ghost is the story of the young New York couple, Sam and Molly. Sam is murdered in front of Molly in the street and spends his transitional time trying to communicate with Molly. Helping him is a psychic, Oda Mae Brown, who has a shady past and can see and hear dead people. The other principal character is the villain, Carl Bruner.
This production could not have been cast more appropriately by director Matthew Warchus who also directed Matilda The Musical. As Sam, triple threat Rob Mills is riveting. I haven’t seen his acting ability in deeper roles, but his voice, dancing talent and stage presence indicate that he could become as successful as Hugh Jackman. Jemma Rix, as Molly, is perfectly suited to the genre of the American musical; her vocals and physicality are outstanding.
The other big question was, “Who would fill the role of Oda Mae Brown, the part so memorably played by Whoopi Goldberg in the film, and would she even come close to that performance?” It’s like playing Lady Bracknell on stage after Dame Edith Evans’ definitive screen portrayal in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Wendy Mae Brown (a coincidence?) answers that in no uncertain terms. Brown’s powerful singing voice, the costume design and her stage presence demand our attention. In some scenes, she absolutely steals the show.
The other outstanding performance comes from David Denis as the Subway Ghost. His ability in contemporary dance is demonstrated in his physical dexterity that devours the stage.
Just as important as the performances in this production are the lighting and other ghostly special effects, which are alone worth the price of admission. Jon Driscoll is the masterful Projection Designer, and in a stroke of genius, stage illusionist Paul Kieve was brought in for the amazing special effects.
The music of The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart and six-time Grammy winner Glen Ballard is strong, and as with many musicals, there is one song that stands out. In Annie it was Tomorrow, in Cats it was Memory, in Chess it was One Night in Bangkok, in Evita it was Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and in Miss Saigon it was the helicopter effect. In Ghost the Musical, it’s Bobby Hatfield’s version of Unchained Melody.
I wasn’t sure how this production would turn out, but I’m a convert. Ghost The Musical is a magical piece of theatre.
Couldn’t finish this column without mentioning the passing of one of our favourite sons. I met and chatted with Jon English twice, and found him to be humble and a genuinely good bloke. As a performer, he was extraordinarily talented and had a stage presence that was absolutely riveting. When he made an entrance, everyone else on the stage disappeared, yet he was also an extremely generous performer who respected everybody. RIP Jon English, rock star, triple threat, uniquely powerful talent and one of nature's true gentlemen.