BWW Review: GHOST THE MUSICAL Pairs Cinematography, Live Performance And Magic To Bring The Paranormal Love Story Into The 21st Century
The 1990 movie of love beyond death is bought to the stage with GHOST THE MUSICAL. Drawing on the nostalgia of the fantasy romance that captivated audiences with iconic expressions of love, Bruce Joel Rubin (Book and Lyrics), who also won an Academy Award for the original screenplay, has teamed up with Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard (Music and Lyrics) to retell the romantic thriller through a combination of new music, dance, cinematics and illusions.
Director Matthew Warchus has ensured that the musical's movie origins are reflected in the breathtaking opening sequence which places the work firmly in New York City with heart pumping surround sound. The focus narrows in on banker Sam Wheat (Rob Mills) and sculptor Molly Jensen's (Jemma Rix) showing off their new Brooklyn loft apartment to Sam's work colleague and close friend Carl Bruner (David Roberts). The establishment of the story seeks to retain an expression of young passionate love despite Sam's inability to put it into the words Molly needs. Sam's love is instead presented as a comic solo where Mills' trademark cheekiness is expressed in an interpretation of the Righteous Brother's Unchained Melody as opposed to the iconic clay covered moment. The re-timing of this scene aside, Rubin has kept the plot very close to the original movie ensuring that movie fans won't be disappointed. Changes in sequences have been made to allow for songs, streamline plot lines and accommodate the challenges of stage illusion compared to cinematic magic. The timeframe of the work has been bought out of the 1990's and into the 21's century with the costumes and the language whilst retaining key lines.
Mills and Rix work comfortably together as an attractive young couple but the costuming and presentation has however reduced some of the contrast between the two characters which made them so captivating in the movie. It is unclear whether it was Rubin or Warchus who were responsible for having Molly presented as a more mainstream pretty blonde in skinny jeans and contemporary high street attire, possibly to separate the musical from the movie, but it removes the expression that Molly is a quirky and unique artistic type who sits outside the traditional image of a Wall Street banker's girlfriend.
Rix stands out in Molly's moving solos, capturing the emotion with strength and sensitivity. Other stand out vocals come from Wendy Mae Brown's bold gospel and soul as charlatan psychic Oda Mae Brown who Sam encounters in his quest to protect Molly from his murderer. Brown, reprising the role from the UK and Asia tours, steals the spotlight of every scene she her perfect comic timing and larger than life expression of the con artist with a penchant for the over the top and tacky. Oda Mae's supporting sisters Clara and Louise are presented with equally energetic conviction by Evette Marie White and Lydia Warr.
Stewart and Ballard, who have an impressive resume of creating popular music, have created clever pop songs to help move the story along but don't seem to match the impact of the iconic Unchained Melody which will always be recognized as the theme music for this story. They have drawn on the diversity of New York's music scene from Harlem Gospel to Rap and classic rock and layered in Bobby Aitken's (Sound Designer) other worldly synthesized sound to capture the chaos of the city that never sleeps, the frantic world of high finance and the eerie space beyond the living.
Chorographer Ashley Wallen, Illusionist Paul Kieve, Video and Projection Designer John Driscoll, and Lighting Designer Hugh Vanstone have created wonderful visuals that balance the traditional physicality of musical theatre's precise ensemble work, provided to create a backdrop for the plot, and the magic of the ghosts and poltergeists. Electronic screens and projections help position scenes in specific locations, provide an expression for the thoughts running through the characters' minds and help to create larger crowd scenes to represent the hustle and bustle of New York streets, offices and subways. Costuming and lighting also serve to creatively differentiate the living from the dead with Sam bathed in an ethereal light and the other ghosts that he encounters fading away as they wait in 'limbo'.
For fans of the movie, GHOST THE MUSICAL will let you relive the iconic love story in an entertaining new format whist staying true to the original plot. There is comedy, romance, mystery, magic and of course music, ensuring that it will appeal to a wide range of tastes regardless of whether you have seen the movie and is an enjoyable night out whether as a date night or evening out with friends.
Theatre Royal, Sydney
From 18th March - 14th May 2016
Crown Theatre, Burswood
From 21st May 2016
From This Author Jade Kops
I am an International Flight Attendant with a love of Cabaret, Musical Theatre, and Live Performing Arts in general. I try to see as many
(read more about this author...)