Casper the Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre

My daughter and I disagree over this one. She (eight and opinionated) thinks Casper the Musical is a wizard night out with some amazing songs and creepy characters, while I reckon it's an opportunistic screen spin-off, best consigned to the dustbin of musical theatre history.

I suppose the truth is we're both right. If you're between five and ten years of age you'll probably be delighted - and a little scared - at this tale of the young spook who helps a team of ghost hunters and a schnook named Donald save a gothic mansion from being overrun by zombies. If you're any older though, I'll wager you'll yawn from start till finish.

To my mind, the show's failure is down to the fact that the director, David H. Bell, has bitten off more than he can chew, having also written the book and lyrics, and taken on the role of choreographer. How else do you explain why Casper has such a predictable plot, cheap gags ('Hey Fatso, you've got more chins than the Hong Kong phone book') and hackneyed dance routines?

Henry Marsh and Phil Pickett(who wrote the Culture Club hit 'Karma Chameleon') fare little better with their tired mix of musical compositions. They've raided a number of genres here, from the surfin' sounds of the Beach Boys ('Living in Harmony') to rap ('the Jiggy Wiggy Spook Move'), disco ('Have A Night Out') and conventional show tunes ('Wishes'). Plus, they've blatantly ripped-off the Ghostbusters theme, with a tune called 'Ghost Hunting'.

The best things in this show are probably Casper's oafish uncles, Fatso (Marcus James), Stinkie (Glen Bowtell) and Stretch (David Jerome), who pull in most of the laughs with their high-spirited clowning routines. Sarah Louise Day, Oliver Marsh and Gary Thatcher indulge in some macho posturing as the 'spookinators', and Robert Austin plays the curmudgeonly owner of the mansion, Billy Con. However, Siobhan Moore is a let down as the eponymous phantom, partly because of her charmless costume, and also because of her squeaky, helium-filled vocals.

By all means take the little 'uns to see Casper the Musical if you're hard up for something to do this holiday. There are enough bangs, flashes, and ghouls on Terry Parsons' set to keep them reasonably amused, even if parents won't find it any more diverting than a second-rate ghost train.

Richard Forrest.