Based on the Paramount Pictures film written by Bruce Joel Rubin
Music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard
Bill Kenwright Productions
Palace Theatre, Manchester
16 April 2019 - 20 April 2019; 2hr 30min inc interval
Ghost The Musical first materialised at the Manchester Opera House in 2011, where it had an extended try-out pre West End. I thought it a brilliant slice of theatre, though much of my excitement was generated by the staging, which involved complex video screens and projections, very cutting-edge stuff. The story worked well too, I thought, but the score, apart from Unchained Melody - lifted straight from the original film - wasn’t memorable, still isn’t, and that’s perhaps the main reason the West End run managed only a year or so.
The current tour is of a much-changed production. But first, for those who aren’t up to speed… Sam and Molly are walking back to their New York apartment one night when Sam is murdered. Molly, deeply in love with Sam, is distraught and in mourning long after the funeral. Meanwhile, Sam is still trapped between this world and the next, reluctant to pass fully to the other side while he is aware of Molly being in terrible danger from the same hoodlum who shot him. He sets out to rescue her, with the help of a back-street psychic.
The film, with Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, is still hugely popular and this stage version shouldn’t disappoint its fans, since it manages to be a musical with the plot of a thriller that mostly holds the attention, draws you in and makes you want to know what happens next.
The staging now is nowhere near as impressive as the first time around and an already non-too-subtle enterprise has been further coarsened by hammering things home too forcefully - partly the fault of over-loud and shrill sound.
That said, most of the rest is good. It’s strongly cast, with Niall Sheehy and Rebekah Lowings as Sam and Molly fully equal to the demands of the high-octane vocals. Sergio Pasquariello as the treacherous friend makes a particularly strong third lead and Jacqui Dubois is amusingly excellent too as Oda Mae, the dubious psychic enlisted by Sam to help him contact Molly.
That central quartet is well supported down the line by Earl Adair as the hospital ghost, Lovonne Richards as the aggressive subway ghost and Jules Brown as the hired murderer.
There aren’t many thriller/gangster musicals around, The Bodyguard being the only other I can think of (coming to the Palace for Chrismas), and both have a similar basic appeal. Sentimental slush, some might say, but manipulated with skill to provide an entertaining night out.