Musicals based on movies are two a penny. We have Dirty Dancing waltzing its way back to the West End, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory delighting those with a sweet tooth and Kinky Boots on the way.
Some are successful and some fall by the way side. Ghost has a loyal audience in the UK and made way for Viva Forever in London, which turned out badly for this musical and Spice Girls' fans. The big smoke's loss is the regions' gain, as the new cast bring vitality to this touring production.
The show remains a slavish copy of the film - with only a few added elements/scenes. This means that fans of the movie starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg know every line of dialogue including the iconic: "Molly.... you in danger girl" uttered by the fake psychic Oda Mae Brown (played here with absolute relish by the aptly named Wendy Mae Brown.
So Bruce Joel Rubin's book is almost a photocopy of his original screenplay. Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard's music and lyrics have a touch of Alanis Morisette about them when they get rockier - "Suspend My Disbelief" is excellent. Other tracks are slightly insipid and twee because many of them are about true love - signposting events which occur later. "Unchained Melody" is used to brilliant effect though and the cast are in good voice - lifting the piece and giving it meaning.
Stewart Clarke makes an excellent Sam. North West audiences might remember him in Parade at the Lowry. He has fully arrived now and lights up the stage and has the vocal ability to blow the roof off. He also imbues empathy for Sam - a man trying to frame the man who killed him. Rebecca Trehearn works well with Clarke and you believe they are a couple. Her "With You" is stunning. Her accent wavers at times, but she portrays grief and lost love with beauty and grace.
Wendy Mae Brown is a wonderful Oda Mae. Her "I'm Outta Here" is a showstopper and her comic timing is a delight to see. David Roberts' Carl Bruner is brilliant because the actor portrays both sides of this villain and being slightly younger helps as it fits with the character's 'go get' attitude for life. The supporting actors and ensemble are excellent - filling the stage when the action wanes slightly. Jon Driscoll's video projection keeps things moving along and Paul Kieve's illusions keep you guessing.
Ghost has faults and many of these remain from when the show made it's debut in Manchester. But it has a heart as big as this city's and a top of their game cast manage to make you forget the flaws and believe.
- Glenn Meads