Theatre review - Ghost the Musical, The Lowry, Salford
PUBLISHED: 16:55 25 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:22 25 April 2017
Ghost the Musical, that iconic Academy Award-winning 80’s movie has been re-imagined for the stage by Bill Kenwright, but this fan wasn’t overwhelmed. Kate Houghton writes.
Ghost the Musical; where to begin? I’m writing a review of a stage production of one of the most successful films of the 1980’s, shooting Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopie Goldberg into the stratosphere of top Hollywood earners and establishing the Righteous Brothers 1955 hit, Unchained Melody, as one of the greatest love songs of all time. I know the film well and for anybody who does, any stage version, drama or musical, has an awful lot to live up to. This is not an easy review to write.
First, what’s right with this show? Plenty. The casting is great. Andy Moss does an excellent job as the murdered Sam, desperately fighting to protect the woman he left behind from assault, or worse. His realisation of his best friend’s role in his death is filled with anguish, although perhaps a little less might have resulted in a better executed vocal performance at that point. Moss has a great voice and a superb range, which is a good job as he is worked hard in this show. Without doubt his best performance comes in the final rendition of Unchained Melody; filled with love and sadness, the emotion flows freely and affects the entire audience, if the breathless stillness of those around me is anything to go by.
Sam’s partner Molly, played by Carolyn Maitland, also has plenty of anguish to convey and she does it very well – if a little too often. Even one less musical demonstration of her pain would have been a good thing, I think.
Sam’s friend and colleague Carl (Sam Ferriday) has a superb voice (and a rather nice upper body too, revealed for his clumsy attempted seduction of an oblivious Molly and leading to more than a few wolf-whistles from the audience) His role of cheerful fraudster descending into panicking thug as his drug lord controller closes in is very well played.
I must also mention here a great performance by Garry Lee Netley as the Subway Ghost. Raging, barely contained violence and such energy.
The star of the show though is Jacqui Dubois, whose performance as Oda Mae (for which Whoopie Goldberg won an Oscar) is absolutely cracking. Her musical numbers are brilliantly delivered; her voice is superb, her comic timing spot on and her stage presence huge. Every scene involving Oda Mae has the audience infused with chuckling energy, from her first appearance stepping from a wardrobe to her dismay at handing $10m to a nun.
The set is also excellent; recreating New York on stage was always going to be a challenge and it’s very cleverly and neatly done, with switches from loft to street to office slick and seamless.
So, what’s wrong with it? Nothing huge, for certain. Nothing easy to put a finger on, indeed. All I know is that as I left I wasn’t buzzing with energy, smiling at the world, the way so many other performances leave me. The songs, apart from Unchained Melody, are all instantly forgettable, with lyrics that reiterate everything that has just happened and how the singer feels about this. Surely this was an opportunity to create a sound track that could stand alone, gain fans in its own right? With music and lyrics from Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard I was expecting something considerably more…commercial. Memorable. Enjoyable.
All in all more to the positive than the negative, but i’m still left feeling a bit flat. Would I recommend it? I don’t think so, to be honest. There are better shows out there on which to spend your money.