Ghost – The Musical, opened in at the New Victoria Theatre Woking, these days it seems anything is turned into a musical – watch out for the rock opera I am writing about going to Londis and skirting a dog fouling issue (Londis – The Musical) however, throw this cynicism aside because this is an absolute treat. What it isn’t is a jazz hands ensemble bigging up the genre but a touching piece of theatre that reflects the depth of grief that people who have lost a loved one can relate to with some beautiful songs (from Dave Stewart & Glen Ballard) diversifying from big gospel style to touching heartbreaking ballad.
After the first five minutes where the relationship between the lead characters felt more like ‘get a room’ than great love story and the first intro of the iconic Righteous Brothers song and pottery wheel shenanigans so famous from the original film were fleeting, the action moves on apace.
The sets were clever with a beautiful cityscape backdrop serving the apartment, street, office, railway and the whole ensemble choreographed into short dances to move along. This gave more power to the scenes of bleak despair, Sam (Andy Moss) being murdered by the brooding, threatening Willie Lopez (Leo Sene) whilst Molly (Carolyn Maitland) holds him as he dies and his realisation of his mortality. The scene in the hospital waiting room as ghost played by James Earl Adair sings to him of letting go in a kindly retro musical way as he waits to meet his wife who is in hospital. This kindly ghost he sees juxtaposed with the violent threat from the subway ghost (Garry Lee Newley), in rage at his death from being pushed under a train, but, who nevertheless teaches Sam to focus so he can protect Molly from Carl (Sam Ferriday) who is out to harm her.
All the performances were strong, in particular Carolyn Maitland has an outstanding clear and expressive vocal performance on the songs. Jacqui Dubois steals the show as Oda Mae Brown a role made famous by Whoopi Goldberg in the film but in fact I preferred the Dubois interpretation, funnier without being deliberately played up for laughs. The chemistry between her and Moss makes them an excellent double act.
With songs written with Dave Stewart & Glen Ballard and beautiful orchestration, skilled musicians and vocals, those who enjoy musicals for just this thing will find something to satisfy however the theme of bereavement and depth of grief, which as any will know who have lost someone also contains so much comedy and, longing for the person back is still personified best, so poignantly in the reprise of the famed Unchained Melody that had a silent audience wiping away tears, and at the end, a standing ovation for this cast who well deserved it.
This is a theatre piece that has been likened to portraying some fine Shakespearean attributes and characters drawn so. This could be dismissed as not worthy and too populist for a comparison to such a honoured playwright however he was an unashamed server of the popular, the themes of death, humans being drawn into the metaphysical, and never shied from the pain of love. These comparisons shouldn’t be dismissed by a faux elite nor be a barrier to someone who hated Shakespeare at school and wants a good story; critic or fan we have all stood in places we didn’t want to be and had to contemplate or will have to, the loss of someone that we can’t imagine living without. Like the days of writing in 1595 or now, people we love die and we grieve and wish it wasn’t so. This is a moving portrayal of a life cut short and the drama of discovery that people aren’t what they seem, there’s a lot of snogging as well, and singing. Which is good, singing is good, especially in a musical I don’t think Shakespeare really cottoned on to that so it might be Ghost the musical – one, Shakespeare – nil – in this case anyway.
Ghost is on at New Victoria Theatre until Sat 4 March 2017 www.atgtickets.com