A few years ago, when Ghost - the Musical started doing the rounds, some theatre-goers were somewhat underwhelmed, writes John Shawcroft.
Adapting the 1990 film, starring Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg plus a host of special effects, for the stage is a challenge. But although the theatre version had many qualities there was a feeling that it did not quite come off.
The current version, which Bill Kenwright is taking on tour, features an expanded book, some new music and a completely original staging, with fresh adaptations. And it works. After all, the acid test is audience approval and Nottingham’s Theatre Royal rocked with applause when the show opened this week.
Those haunting moments, in which the subway ghost jumps in and out of trains and teaches murder victim Sam Wheat how to move objects, characters occupying other people’s bodies and ghosts not bothering to open doors but simply walking through them, are not easy to replicate.
The production gets round this problem by not trying too hard. The subway ghost shows Sam how to move a discarded newspaper. Later, an office table lamp and a phone float mysteriously through the air. Clever lighting and computer graphics create another-worldly atmosphere throughout.
Another nice touch updates a busy Manhattan street scene with people hurrying to work carrying smart phones, coffee-to-go and selfie sticks.
As a tale, it helps if you can suspend disbelief and believe in ghosts for an evening. Walking back to their Brooklyn apartment one night, a tragic encounter sees high-flying businessman Sam murdered and his beloved wife Molly, alone, in despair and utterly lost.
Sam finds himself trapped between this world and the next and tries desperately to communicate with Molly in the hope of saving her from grave danger. Enter phony medium Oda Mae Brown and it is now that the story really takes off, particularly as Oda Mae discovers she is a bit less fake than she imagined.
Chemistry is vital in such roles and Molly (Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding) and Sam (Andy Moss who played Rhys Ashworth in Hollyoaks) have a near-impossible act to follow in Moore and Swayze. By and large, they succeed. Harding’s vocal skills are a given and she displays nice acting skills. Moss demonstrates considerable singing ability to go with his talented acting.
The famous potter’s wheel scene is downplayed a little and given a humorous touch but the couple excel with a poignant duet of Unchained Melody as Sam prepares to leave for good.
There are excellent performances from Garry Lee Netley as the subway ghost, ruing the fact that he has gone before his time, and Sam Ferriday as Carl as Sam’s best friend and work colleague, who turns out to be anything but Sam’s best friend as his money-laundering scam is revealed.
Good touches, too, from James Earl Adair as the hospital ghost and Leo Sene as Willie Lopez, Sam’s killer.
The comedy, of course, turns on Oda Mae and here Jacqui Dubois absolutely nails the part. The scenes where, guided by Sam, she closes the account to Carl’s eventual horror, are standout moments in a series of standouts.
n Sarah Harding and Andy Moss are pictured during the potter’s wheel scene from Ghost - The Musical. (Photo by Matt Martin)