Ghost The Musical continues at the Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury and then tours until 29 April.
Star rating: two stars ★ ★ ✩ ✩ ✩
Movie-to-stage adaptations work best when members of the creative team take the best qualities of the original and then have a very, very long think about how to bring the material to life in a completely different environment.
Innovation is key in everything, from the director’s concept to any new dialogue or songs being penned for the project. Hence the success of productions such as School of Rock and Groundhog Day at the recent Olivier Awards
Despite the fact that the press release for this latest Bill Kenwright tour of Ghost The Musical boasts an expanded book, new music and original staging, the show still remains in many respects a pretty bland carbon copy of the Oscar-winning 1990 movie. Within a very forgettable score (music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin) the only tracks that stand out are – surprise, surprise – the regularly reprised ‘Unchained Melody’ (famously recorded by The Righteous Brothers) and ‘With You’.
It wasn’t a surprise to discover that my companion couldn’t wait to get home to watch ‘the real thing’.
However, that was in contrast to the audience member sitting to my left who was wiping a tear away as she got up to leave. Proof enough that this production will tick all the right boxes for those fans of the movie who just fancy a conventional retelling of the story with no surprises.
Director Bob Tomson ensures all the action flows along at a steady pace and the set pieces – from Sam’s murder to his ascendancy to another world – are handled well.
The illusions are relatively convincing too, until, on this occasion, nasty villain Willie Lopez (Leo Sené) shuffled off this mortal coil and the set’s back panels didn’t disguise the spirit-rising-from-corpse trickery quite as well as they should have.
Perhaps most irritating of all is the use of choreography in the staging, often brought into play during group numbers on the streets of New York or at the bank where Sam works. It’s not particularly the fault of the hardworking ensemble, but these scenes often seem cheesy and unnecessary.
Girl power rather raises the spirits of the piece with Jacqui Dubois playing Oda Mae, the medium surprised to discover she actually can communicate with ‘dead people’.
While Dubois deserves better musical fare to deal with, she has great fun with the dialogue, even creating a few laugh-out-loud moments along the way.
In contrast, Carolyn Maitland’s Molly is stuck grieving for a good couple of hours but still manages to bring some light and shade to the proceedings. Her acting of the songs, combined with the strongest vocals of the night, make her performance the most memorable.
The two-dimensional male roles don’t give Andy Moss (Sam) and Sam Ferriday (Carl) a great deal to work with, but both fulfil the brief even if the writing creates many a hammy exchange.
And despite these reservations, Moss in particular must be commended for the depth of emotion he brings to his character, he really gives the performance his all.