ghost head

Andy Moss as Sam and Sarah Harding as Molly in the most iconic image from Ghost

Ghost

The New Alexandra Theatre

****

IN 1990 when Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore took to their dual pottery wheel sessions in the film Ghost, no one could have expected that the movie’s blend of comedy, romance and supernatural thrills would have come to achieve the iconic status it has.

With Whoopi Goldberg's also picking up an Oscar-for her performance as the psychic Oda Mae the challenge of creating a musical to augment this kind of heritage might be a theatrical blessing or a curse.

In the right hands, this tale of ghostly love could have been spectacular but with the film being able to access a whole range of special effects to convince us of the spirit world, the limitations of the stage and a touring show is another matter. Without some of those effects what we are left with is a kind of well-produced singing Randall and Hopkirk.

The story is of Molly, a potter and her boyfriend Sam a banker, who live together in New York. One night Sam is wrongfully killed so is now trapped in some sort of limbo as a ghost. Through the spiritual help of medium Oda Mae he solves his own murder from the comfort of the after world and in turn saves Molly from the harm of his villainous work colleague Carl.

In the role of Molly is Sarah Harding, former Girls AlOda Maeoud member, who recently seems to have taken an internet beating for her performance. However Molly is not really a central character in the story being unable to revive poor old Sam, but Harding did enough to bring her own role to life. Her voice is more pop than musical and has a nice tone when singing within her range; she seemed to enjoy the role and did not let anyone down.

Jacqui Dubois lifts the musical bar as the psychic Oda Mae

To be honest the songs created for the show by the unlikely pairing of Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard hardly have any notable or contemporary melodic depth for anyone to hide behind. Often two chord rock riffs gave rise to some dubious `city type office worker’ dance routines.

Andy Moss as Sam also worked hard with the limited material and was pleasant, but dancing on a couch and shaking his rear cheekily (no pun intended) at Molly as a sign of cute love seemed tacky against that of Swayze’s sultry memory.

The pinnacle vocal standard is achieved by Jacqui Dubois in her portrayal of Oda Mae. During one of the most accomplished songs of the musical, I’m Outta here, she raises the vocal and performance bar for four minutes to a standard that the whole show should have had throughout.

It is rather tiring though, that writers consider it fitting in a lot of musicals to go `full gospel’ whenever any black woman with a soul voice turns up. Dubois certainly felt the most comfortable in her role and to watch. Sam Ferriday as the nasty Carl had what seemed to be one of the better voices but with only a few moments to shine hardly had time to make a contribution.

What’s missing in this production is sweet romance. Instead the show gives this away to slick dance routines, precise staging, FX lighting and a few magical tricks. Considering the power of the Righteous Brothers classic song which features in the original film and likewise here, the new songs feel like cheap make dos. With Stewart writing some of the most powerful and romantic pop songs of the nineties like Why and Sweet Dreams there seems little effort to create anything memorable here to add to what is one of the most emotive movies of its time.

You ultimately come away humming the tune of Unchained Melody, mildly satisfied yet feeling a little chilled, not with the supernatural but at the missed opportunity here.  In the end, fans of the film and the cast gave a rapturous applause. There were spookily though quite a few empty seats on the night but perhaps they were filled by other worldly types and I just couldn’t see them. To 24-09-16

Jeff Grant

19-09-16 

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