Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Theatre Review: Ghost - The Musical

Image Source: ATG
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Musical
Genre: Romantic Thriller
Date: April 10 2017
Location: Liverpool Empire Theatre, Liverpool, England

If you have ever seen the movie Ghost, you will know what to expect from the theatre version of the popular film, which recently came to Liverpool Empire Theatre. If you are unfamiliar with the movie and you are coming to the show with a fresh set of eyes, so to speak, then you may be in for a surprise, in more ways than one.

Ghost tells the story of a budding romantic couple, Sam Wheat (Andy Moss) and Molly Jensen (Carolyn Maitland), whose love for one another is known by others, in particular Sam's friend and work colleague Carl Bruner (Sam Ferriday), who is made aware that Sam has discovered bizarrely large amounts of money in various obscure bank accounts. The happy and slightly corny situation is turned on its head when a mugger shoots Sam dead, with Molly understandably devastated. However, Sam, now a ghost, is still able to see what is going on and how people are reacting to the murder, but as he is now a spirit, he can do nothing about it.

He uses psychic medium Oda Mae Brown (Jacqui Dubois), who was previously conning people by telling them she could communicate with the dead when she could not, and is freaked out when she genuinely does communicate with a ghost, to speak to Molly and warn her that she remains in danger, especially when Sam discovers that Carl was in on the murder and is aligned with Willie Lopez (Leo Sené), setting him up to steal Sam's wallet (but not necessarily to kill him). Molly remains in danger with Carl and Willie out to gain access to the huge amounts of money in the previously-mentioned bank accounts, even if it means killing Molly in the process, but he can only rely on Oda to try and convey messages of help and warnings to Molly before it is too late, whilst also trying to find alternate ways that he can somehow intervene himself.

Jacqui Dubois provides the stand-out acting performance as Oda Mae Brown due to her ability to mix comedy with the very real drama of the story, just as Whoopi Goldberg had done so well as Oda Mae in the movie. There are quite a few songs throughout the show, with Carolyn Maitland delivering some memorable musical moments while performing With You and Nothing Stops Another Day. Of course, those with keen musical knowledge will be familiar with Unchained Melody, which we hear more than once and acts as the backdrop for the show's most famous scene near the beginning (which I won't divulge here, since there's a good chance that you'll know what scene I am on about).

The settings are excellent, in particular the use of a New York subway train during some scenes where Sam encounters fellow ghosts. I also liked the use of lighting, as well as the dramatic effects used to build up suspense and tension during the more nervy moments of the show. The cast of dancers were very good, bringing scenes to life by demonstrating the general hustle and bustle of New York City, and there were some real touching moments towards the end of the show. Obviously, the musical followed the screenplay of the film, so the characters, the humorous scenes and the more emotional moments were all in line with the motion picture.

Oh that note, as the musical is telling the same story as the movie, this is an observation on the plot of Ghost as a whole rather than nitpicking the musical itself. That being said, I found the story to be quite confusing at times, especially during the latter stages. Let me rephrase that: one could understand the story being told, but certain moments involving Sam were unexplained and therefore seemed to contradict the rest of the tale. I won't give away what happens at the end for those who don't know, but there is a late twist which, again, felt strange and was not explained in enough detail to make sense, in my opinion. I also felt that some scenes were a little on the weird side to the point of feeling a little uncomfortable, although again I have to point out that this show is only following the plot strands of the film.

To conclude, when it comes to Ghost, one does not have to have seen the movie to enjoy the musical, but it definitely helps. Those who have previously seen the flick should really appreciate this show. Those who haven't will still enjoy it, but may be scratching their heads or feeling a bit unnerved at some points. Overall, though, I give it a thumbs-up.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 - Good

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