First thing to say about Ghost is it’s a great night out.
From its filmic start, it looks and feels crafted for a new breed of theatregoer – cleverly pitched to attract the X-Factor crowd. The set by Jon Driscoll is three full walls of LED and the New York screetscapes zip by with energy and class. The onstage illusions by Paul Kieve are deft and fast: he really does walk through that door, and the well-remembered set-pieces from the movie like the fight in the alley, the run through the subway train and the heavenly transfigurations are brilliantly realised although when the strobes focus on the audience the show’s dazzling in more ways than one.
Baftas all round for set, lighting and special effects, no question. But the music and lyrics and the central performances? Dave (Eurythmics) Stewart has rejected Betty Blue Eyes-pastiche in favour of an original pop-rock score, but the lyrics are occasionally swallowed by the reverberant sound design and the only tune you come out humming is the one you hummed on the way in, Unchained Melody.
In his wife-beater vest, balconied pectorals and rigger boots, Richard Fleeshman* looks more hustler than Wall Street banker and whilst the choreography requires him to do little more than stand around feigning anger or disbelief most of the time, his is a musically accomplished performance for a 22-year old.
We found Caissie Levy in the Demi Moore role a bit blond and bland although other critics we met in the bar admired her performance strongly. Perhaps on the day of Rebekah Brooks’ resignation, we’d had enough corkscrew curl-tossing to last us a while. As the psychic Oda Mae, Sharon D Clarke fully matches Whoopi’s comic turn whilst putting her own naturalistic gloss on the character and, with her voice at its career best, sings up a veritable storm. Twice.
Some of the best moments belong to Adebayo Bolaji as the subway ghost in perhaps the sharpest-recreated scene from the movie when he fights with Sam on the moving train but he also has a great solo number in the second act.
If you're looking for a modern, polished movie-related musical with more spine than Mamma Mia and maybe a touch less camp than Priscilla, this is spot on.
Ghost The Musical continues at the Piccadilly Theatre with a challenging NINE performances a week, Monday-Saturday at 7.30pm and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday also at 2.30pm. Box Office is ATG. Ticket prices are £25 to £60 plus £1.50 'restoration levy' and booking fees. Booking to January 2012.
The reviewer received one complimentary ticket from Premier PR.
*Notes on the leading man: We loved Craig the teenage Goth in Corrie. We even pardoned his early sexualisation with kohl eyeliner and leather accessories supporting Brian Sewell’s allegation that the Street is penned by pooftahs. We cheered him through Soapstar Superstar and went appropriately “aaah” when he turned up at the semis with his clothes in a TopShop bag. We sneaked a look and a listen at him a couple of weeks ago when he supported his mate Julie Atherton in her one-nighter at the Apollo, and marveled at both his strong vocals and Chippendale-buffed body. We’d heard on the Manchester grapevine (actually from a freshly shamphoo-and-setted but still insightful septuagenarian called Christine we met last week on a tram to Eccles) that the provincial tryout had been a great success, the boy done good and the special effects were outstanding. She was right.