Seeing the musical ‘Ghost’

Last night, a couple of days before the end of the tour, I finally managed to do something I had desperately wanted to do, see the musical Ghost.
Based on the film of the same name, the musical sees lovers Sam and Molly separated by a seemingly random robbery-shooting in which Sam is killed. While Molly attempts to come to terms with the loss, Sam remains trapped on Earth as a ghost, one of many who walk among us. However, when he discovers that he was in fact the target of the shooting, and that Molly is in danger, Sam attempts to communicate with her with the help of a (not so) phoney psychic, Oda Mae.
The show ran for, I think, just over a year in the West End but it was the Hungarian production that first caught my eye and prompted me to buy the soundtrack (Original cast CD) and I slowly but surely grew to love the songs and particularly their portrayal of the human aspects of love and loss. In fact, my mother and I have ended up in floods of tears while listening to that soundtrack in the kitchen but that’s another story.
The UK tour production has some changes from the original production. No doubt there are other changes (as this is the first time I have seen the production, I’m not sure) but the most obvious are a few lyrical changes and a few song changes. “Ball of Wax” is changed to “You Gotta Let Go” and this change is positive, I think. The ghosts are more obviously attempting to help Sam come to terms with things and encouraging this. “I Can’t Breathe” is now a reprise of “Unchained Melody”, although I think it was to the same tune as “I Can’t Breathe” but don’t quote me on that. I don’t understand what they were trying to do here. I don’t see any weakness in the original lyrics and I certainly don’t see the point of having the lyrics to “Unchained Melody” here. The other major change came in the form of “Life Turns on a Dime”, mainly in Carl’s part which was reminiscent of “Here Right Now”. Personally, I feel that the original version is better with regards to Carl’s characterisation but I don’t think it matters, especially if you haven’t seen/heard any other versions.
Anyway, moving onto the production itself and the cast. I must admit that during the first few scenes (and my mother said the same thing) I was cringing. It was not good. The cheesy New York accents really detracted from the performance, luckily they got weaker as the play went on, and you couldn’t hear a word that was being said because the sound was fuzzy. Actually, that balance was out most of the time and you were lucky if you could hear the soloists over the chorus and/or band. Rebecca Trehearn (Molly) and Stewart Clarke (Sam) sounded positively out of tune during the first number but, to be fair, I think this was down to the tech team more than anything because there was dramatic improvement. By Sam’s death the pair I had started to warm to the pair and I think you were more able to empathise and enjoy their stage time. I loved Trehearn’s portrayal of the mourning Molly, in particular. Her body language was great.
I think the crowd’s favourite had to be Wendy Mae Brown (Oda Mae Brown) who was simply wonderful. She oozed charisma and she owned the stage whenever she was on it. Of course, playing a larger than life character has to help with that but seriously, wow.
Because this ‘review’ is getting long and rambling enough as it is, I won’t go into everyone’s performance but the rest of the cast who played named character were excellent (David Robert’s Carl was wonderfully nuanced and Stevie Hutchinson really impressed me as the Subway Ghost). The ensemble were also wonderful both vocally and with their dancing!
However, it was the tech that sold the show. As people who know me will know, I have a vision problem that makes projections very uncomfortable and that means that I can’t see in 3D at all (along with other things). The projections were painful for me which is in no way the responsibility of anyone to do with the show… However, I could actually see some aspects of the projections partially in 3D which is truly wonderful. That says something about how perfect the design must have been. Similarly, a lot of the tricks and illusions used during the show were things that I knew how to do but even with that knowledge, which should make it easier to spot what’s being done, they appeared flawless. To be fair, that part is complimenting both cast and tech but oh well, organisation. The best bit: the illusions and technology use was constant and amazing yet it always added to the show as a whole and never detracted.
I have to mention the sound once again because I really do feel that the actors have had a rough deal in this review because of things that were largely outside of their control. The general balance sounded out and certainly the volume was bizarre. Some songs were painfully loud without there being any reason (I know that sometimes one might want higher volumes to overload senses etc), and the vocals seemed distorted at times when they simply shouldn’t have been. The chorus were great but if they were singing at the same time as a soloist there’s no way you could hear that soloist. The band was also great but goodness did they overpower the singers. During the interval I heard a lot of people wondering what was going on because they hadn’t been able to hear a lot of the words. What a shame.
Complaints about sound aside, perhaps it’s the biggest compliment that despite this, everyone seemed to have a really good evening. And, if the amount of sniffing and smudged mascara eyes was anything to go by, the show really managed to connect with the audience even when the missed half the nuance of the script. Their enjoyment must have come mainly from the visual affects and the acting and isn’t that the greatest compliment you can give?
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