Ghost The Musical – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Richard Mansfield, April 2019
Back in 1990, and somewhat coincidentally perhaps for a single year, we were graced with the screening of two award winning films, each with a very similar theme; one was made for television (BBC), Truly, Madly Deeply, starring Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman and the second was Ghost, starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg.
Both were essentially romances made to win our hearts, which they certainly did, along with the awards, and featured the predicaments of recently bereaved women revisited, in ghost form, by the unsettled spirits of their concerned partners.
Ghost proved to be phenomenally successful and while Truly, Madly, Deeply may retain a fondness in our memories, it is Ghost that has reincarnated itself into a theatre musical, again with original screenwriter come scriptwriter Bruce Joel Rubin crafting a modernised up to date narrative for the stage.
So, set in Brooklyn during the current decade, and reflecting a period in which the characters and ourselves have all moved on to possess that most ubiquitous feature of modern times, but very useful prop – the mobile phone! – Ghost revisits the plight of Molly (played by Rebekah Lowings), grieving for her partner Sam (Niall Sheey), who is murdered on the platform of New York’s Subway.
His unintended death is the result of a bungled robbery at the hands of seedy villain Willie Lopez (Jules Brown) who has been recruited by the couple’s erstwhile friend Carl (Sergio Pasquariello). Carl has found himself in big money debt in New York.
Get the picture?
Frustrated that Molly, now in danger, cannot see or hear him when he visits her in their loft apartment to warn her, Sam reluctantly employs the services of dodgy psychic, Oda Mae (Jacqui Dubois).
And so the story goes on.
“Effective and dynamic”
The frequent changes of set and lighting in this performance are slick and smooth and allow for a fast pace to be maintained in a simple and yet complicated narrative, which moves back and forth frequently between locations. (Only at the end did I hear the young student, on a theatre school trip and sitting nearby, question: “I’m confused, is she dead too?”).
One of the most striking, effective and dynamic of the sets featured ‘My Train’ . Incorporating the image of a moving train carriage and passengers inside, it offered a novel and very imaginative special effect. The impact and drama of the scene was accompanied by the very intimidating appearance of the Subway Ghost (performed very scarily by Lovonne Richards).
Musically, it is the song ‘Unchained Melody’, originally a hit in 1965, which seems to define and fit so well with the romantic theme. If anything it was underplayed here and its moving performance by the leading actors left a feeling of wanting a little more. Apart from this number, there is no other ‘off the shelf’ music and the lyrics and music are written by former Eurythmic Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard. The songs feel to be well tailored to suit the script.
This offering of Ghost has been described as a ‘Romantic Fantasy Thriller’, but there is also a welcome element of comedy which is brought by an almost show-stealing performance from Jacqui Dubois as the flamboyant Oda Mae, the impostor psychic medium. Ultimately she proves crucial to the undoing of the villain and deservedly she gained a warm and enthusiastic round of applause at curtain call.
Only one small disappointment – and this may depend on where one is seated in the auditorium – but on occasion the fine and moving quality of the vocals, especially by Rebekah Lowings and particularly in solo or duet form, were overwhelmed by the band, especially so if their accompaniment featured strong percussion.
The cast, coming towards the close of this tour, did not seem to show any weariness in their performances and the audience were very definitely on side, the majority standing to give much deserved and enthusiastic applause at the end. An excellent and very accomplished show.
images: Pamela Raith