BWW Reviews: GHOST, Bristol Hippodrome, August 28 2013
Lovers of the cult film Ghost will not be disappointed should they venture to the Bristol Hippodrome over the next few weeks to see the visually stunning spectacle that is Ghost - The Musical.
Based on the 1990 film starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost - The Musical tells the tale of young couple Molly and Sam, an up-and-coming artist and a successful banker respectively, who are happy and very much in love. With a trendy new apartment in Brooklyn, and their whole lives ahead of them, it seems that life can't get much better.
But when a mugging goes wrong and tragedy strikes, Molly is left distraught and alone, while Sam's ghost is caught between this life and the next. A confused Sam feels completely lost and helpless until he meets Oda Mae Brown, a psychic reader and adviser, who turns out to be much less of a phony than she herself believed. Working with Sam - although initially somewhat begrudgingly - Oda Mae sets out to solve the mystery of Sam's death, and protect Molly from imminent danger.
The iconic story is brought to life on stage with what can only be described as a sensory smorgasbord, using the latest in special effects to leave the crowd open-mouthed and wondering how each feat was accomplished. With great use of lighting and projections, Ghost truly transports the audience to another world by combining classic lines from the film with high-tech visual effects. From levitating subway riders to Sam's ability to walk through doors, the show's creative and technical teams introduce a stream of tricks and illusions into the mix, yet carefully manage not to overdo it. Most of the illusion transitions were seamless, and it's a credit to the cast that they are able to stay so sharp show after show and not become complacent, which is vital for the success of the magic.
I would say that the visual effects are the real draw of the show, as the score is a little bit hit and miss, in my opinion - a mixture of impressive and forgettable. While I am struggling to hum even a single line of one or two of the tunes, others such as the catchy opening number Here Right Now are very much engrained in my brain, and the haunting With You is emotionally performed. Some of the instrumental numbers are truly wonderful, with beautiful soaring melodies and swelling phrases adding to the electric atmosphere of the show.
The choreography was fresh and at times inventive, and the ensemble members proved themselves to be masters of physicality. One particular stand-out performer from the supporting cast comes in the form of Stevie Hutchinson as the slightly unhinged Subway Ghost, who puts in a brief yet memorable performance. As well as being supported by a whole host of special effects, Hutchinson's scenes are impactful as a result of his impressive array of agile and powerful moves.
Stewart Clarke and Rebecca Trehearn work well together and make a lovely couple as Sam and Molly. Trehearn has a unique voice, and puts in a heartfelt performance as the grief-stricken artist, shining in particular during her emotional ballad With You. Clarke also gives a solid performance, and demonstrates a high level of skill and concentration with respect to the tricky illusion manoeuvres.
David Roberts as Carl - a character who turns out not to be quite who you thought he was - makes himself likeable and rather subtle at first, which cleverly disguises the drama that is to come as he gradually becomes more prominent and central to the story.
The show-stopping, scene-stealing performance in this production comes from the revelation that is Wendy Mae Brown as not-so-phony psychic Oda Mae Brown. She puts in a star turn, with wonderful comic timing and infectious energy, injecting real character into the role and truly bringing her love-hate relationship with Sam to life. While everyone in the audience is obviously rooting for Sam to get back together with his lover Molly, the journey that the ghost and Oda Mae take to become friends ends up being just as touching - Oda Mae helps Sam to reconnect with his one true love, and he helps Oda Mae to find her gift and her heart.