Ghost the Musical
West End Premiere
Picadilly Theatre, London
Wednesday 7th March 2012
Adapted from the hugely popular, Oscar-winning, film of 1990, Ghost tells the harrowing story of the murder of Sam Wheat, and the subsequent efforts that his ghost makes to ensure justice is done to those he discovers to be the culprits, alongside the heart-wrenching love and loss felt by he and his partner Molly.
All the numbers are performed with gusto, whether the ballad style love songs or the up-tempo chorus numbers, and although none of the songs are particularly memorable each does fit perfectly into the plot and succeed in telling the story, and all are delivered faultlessly by a very talented cast. The choreography in each of these numbers is both varied and entertaining - the relatively large chorus are used to great effect throughout, flanked by multiple different props.
The Ghost, Sam Wheat, has recently been taken over by Mark Evans, who worked hard in an excellent performance, a clear and powerful voice and masculine stage presence made for a convincing portrayal as the revenge-seeking young man, and did not give over to sloppiness in the love scenes.
Siobhan Dillon, as the grief-stricken partner, carried her loss powerfully, played with enough sentimentality to be believable while maintaining the audience's sympathy - the overwhelming sound of tissue-covered snuffling at the end is a testament to the emotion conveyed to the audience.
The performance of the show however, and not simply because it is easier to like the comedic element of an emotionally-heavy production, is delivered by Sharon D Clark as Oda Mae Brown. Constantly energetic and engaging, many of her scenes illicited spontaneous applause from an appreciative mid-week audience. A part which could easily be treated as simply the light relief from a melancholy plotline, is treated with all the enthusiasm of Whoopi Goldberg's Oscar-winning performance in the film version, and is the performance highlight of the evening.
Putting all of this aside however, which is nothing you wouldn't really expect from any good West End production, what makes this show stand out from the crowd of movie-to-musical adaptations that are flooding the market at the moment is the astonishing magic of the set, projections and illusions. An highly imaginitive set, with multiple automated parts all seamlessly moving around in every scene, is entirely digitalised to show both moving and static images of everything from the streets of New York, to an abstract binary depiction of Wall Street, to a moving subway train. Projected images on various gauzes add a depth to many of the scenes, especially memorable early on, when Sam and Molly's live dance routine was simultaneously projected as shadows to five times the height. The real treat on top of all this however is the wonderful illusions created for the integration of the "ghosts" into the real world. Walking through doors, arms passing through objects, bodies raising up to heaven, people disappearing. Effects that a modern movie-going audience could easily overlook, as they are seamlessly integrated into the action, are achieved live on stage. An astonishing accomplishment, designed by illusionist Paul Kieve.