Ghost The Musical

Bruce Joel Rubin

Bill Kenwright

Liverpool Empire

From 10 April 2017 to 15 April 2017

Review by David Sedgwick

A formula used by dramatists since time immemorial, the struggle between good and evil, is nothing if not a remarkably resilient chestnut. And if there is such a thing as an archetype of the genre, then Ghost: The Musical must surely be it.

Based on Bruce Joel Rubin’s 1990 smash hit screenplay, this is a production that takes an audience not only to heaven and hell, but also to downtown New York, where madly in love young couple Sam (Andy Moss) and Molly (Carolyn Maitland) have just moved in together.

The key here is tenderness. Thanks to the intimacy provided by the small screen, the movie version could not help but draw the viewer in. The casting of Hollywood heavyweights Moore and Swayze as leads imbued yet more magic. Indeed, get the chemistry right between Sam and Molly and the job’s a good ‘un. Film or stage, this show lives or dies on this dynamic.

Crucially, this production gets the chemistry right. The interplay between Moss and Maitland is always delicate, as it must be. One can easily believe that here are a couple of innocents, stood on the brink of a new adventure with everything to live for.

If anything, the stage realisations of the leads at Liverpool’s Empire theatre are a little less idealised than their movie counterparts, a little less, dare I say, slushy, a little more… real. And the better for it.

Jacqui Dubois meanwhile has the tricky task of playing madcap spiritualist Odah Mae, the role so unforgettably portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg in the original film. Tough act to follow (sometimes only a cliché will suffice). It is particularly pleasing to report therefore that Ms Dubois owns the Empire stage. As feisty as they come, Dubois’ rendition is a masterclass of comic timing. It’s a role, well, to die for.

From Dave Stewart’s musical score to Mark Bailey’s nifty ever-morphing New York skyline, there’s plenty to feast both ear and eye upon in this production. Dark and light. One minute the Empire stage is a stairway to heaven, the next it’s a conduit to hell.

Although the original movie was rightly lauded for its special effects, this production manages to pull off some admittedly tricky moments well enough. And what it is isn’t able to technically create on stage, an audience can happily fill in.

As for music, strong vocal performances abound. Ms Maitland’s clarity of tone is complimented by powerful turns from Moss and Sam Ferriday in the role of the duplicitous Carl. Ghost will forever be linked with "Unchained Melody", the classic tearjerker that ends both movie and stage show. It’s a duet worth the wait.

The addition of some hard-edged 1980s yuppie-inspired choreography provides a useful counterpunch to the tenderness as well as reminding us that on the mean streets of NYC, just a stone’s throw away from the safety and security of Molly and Sam’s love nest, it’s dog eat dog.

Overall, this production of Ghost manages to retain all the elements that made the movie a multiple Academy Award-winner, while acclimatising itself rather well to the limitations (or should that be possibilities) of the stage.

A word of warning though: before leaving home, do remember to pack a large box of tissues; you’ll certainly need ‘em!