By Antonia Merola Jones
I’m not ashamed to admit that Ghost, the 1990 critically acclaimed romantic thriller starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, is pretty high up on my list of all-time film favourites.
So with this in mind, I was a bit dubious about going to see the musical version of the timeless classic as movie adaptions can go one of two ways – they either work or they don’t. I’m also a firm believer of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’, but I was still interested to see how the highest grossing film of 1990 would work on stage.
I had been expecting something overly sentimental, soppy and slightly corny when I went to see Ghost the Musical, which is currently on UK tour taking in Chester’s Storyhouse this week. Plus, in films you can make anything happen, on stage however, it takes real skill to summon up ghosts and physical disturbances from beyond the grave and make them believable, so I was eager to see how this would be achieved.
I wasn’t dissapointed. The audience was treated to a powerful and impressive performance with brilliant effects, where the idea of a ghost communicating with living persons stretched believability – blink and you will miss the clever tricks and change overs!
It may not be one of the best musicals out there but this version written Bruce Joel Rubin (who also wrote the book and lyrics for this musical version), keeps audiences laughing, gasping and sniffing – for those of us that have a tendency to cry over most things that pull at the heart strings.
Ghost the Musical follows the story of banker Sam (Niall Sheehy) and his artist girlfriend Molly (Rebekah Lowings) who move into a Brooklyn apartment.
But their future together is cut short when an evening out ends in tragedy as Sam is shot dead in a mugging as they return home.
Trapped between this life and the next, he gradually discovers the truth behind his murder, realising Molly is in grave danger and enlists the help of medium Oda Mae (Jacqui Dubois).
Sheehy succeeded in making the part made famous by Swayze his own with a captivating and moving performance as he battles to understand why he is trapped between worlds and what he can do to save Molly from meeting the same fate.
Sergio Pasquariello is perfectly cast as baddie Carl – a friend of Sam and Molly’s who isn’t all that he seems, gelling perfectly with Sheehy and Lowings.
Lowings and Sheehy are tremendous as lead characters and their on-stage chemistry was very believable. The suitably handsome and attractive couple also demonstrated amazing vocal ability throughout. Lowings particularly comes to her own with her rendition of the haunting song entitled with you With You – this isn’t just a tricky song because of all the emotion and loneliness consuming her, it’s technically challenging too. This was definitely a goose bump moment for me and the live orchestra was outstanding.
However, unlike many musicals where songs spring up regularly, I was surprised how the songs in this were used sparingly, albeit more appropriately, rather than for the sake of it. There’s plenty of variety in this musical from upbeat numbers set against well-written tear-jerking ballads. The way they teased the well-known number ‘Unchained Melody’ in the background music throughout Act one was clever, but when Sheehy finally sang the full version towards the end it was a treat well worth the wait.
Although a tragic love story it’s actually funny in parts thanks to the much-needed humour provided by Dubois. She certainly had big Whoppi shoes to fill and she did just that with her witty one-liners from the moment she stepped on stage. She played the part with ease and her comic timing was fantastic.
The Subway Ghost, played by Lovonne Richards, is also worthy of a mention. The train scenes where he demonstrates his spiritual powers and illusions added another creative and interesting dimension to the production.
I was also particularity impressed by the lighting by Nick Richings, which works very well to set the scene and the use of purples and blues throughout the show is particularly effective. The clever lighting, especially in the finale, was beautiful – perhaps even surpassing that used in the original production.
The musical stage show, which draws out more of the emotional aspects of the story, left more than a few members of the audience with a tear in their eye at the end. It is truly unmissable for fans of the film as well as those that haven’t seen it – for that reason we give it five stars.
Ghost The Musical is on at Chester’s Storyhouse until Saturday (March 9). To book in person visit the theatre on Hunter Street, Chester, call 01244 409 113, or get tickets online on the Storyhouse website.