Ghost – The Musical (Piccadilly Theatre)

Originally published on my LiveJournal blog on 3 August 2011.

The 1990 film of ‘Ghost’, directed by Jerry Zucker, starring Patrick Swazye, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg, was the massive hit of that year.  Writer Bruce Joel Rubin again does the writing duties in this musical version, which has songs by Dave Stewart (formerly of The Eurythmics), and Glen Ballard.

Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman in Ghost.
Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman in Ghost.

In the leads this time are British actor Richard Fleeshman, American singer Caissie Levy, and British musical star Sharon D Clarke.  For me, Clarke stole the show as the brassy psychic fake who freaks out when she discovers her family ‘gift’ is real.  She has one knockout number ‘I’m Outta Here’ in which a naughty dig at Whitney Houston raises a smile, and generally radiates energy – and real pathos when it is needed in the closing scenes.  As for the leads – Fleeshman takes time to settle into his role.  Once he becomes the ‘ghost’ he rails against his fate with some justification, but is let down a bit by songs which aren’t needed.  Levy, although an able actress, is a little shrilly when it comes to the high notes (something I noticed when she sang ‘Easy To Be Hard’ as Sheila in last year’s revival of ‘Hair’).  

I felt that ‘Ghost – The Musical’ suffered a bit from what I call ‘Gone-With-The-Wind-syndrome’ in that in the first half at least there seems to be a song to back up every piece of dialogue.  Far too much is City/office based in a sub-‘Enron’ style with numbers flashing in video projection and staccato choreography.  In the second half things move along more quickly as the plot develops and the conclusion is truly moving.  Throughout video projection, magic tricks, and spectacle fill the senses and provide the wow factor.

In the beautifully re-fitted Piccadilly Theatre (with art deco features and a green/gold colour scheme) the audience were impressed enough to give a standing ovation, although I didn’t think this musical quite deserved it!  It’s a reasonable night out – it looks as if money has been thrown at it, and it keeps the plot of the original film intact (although rearranged slightly).  It has some nice tricks concerning the transfer of souls after death (and some nice bits of comedy), but at its heart it is spectacle over substance.  And without any hummable songs other than ‘Unchained Melody’, which is retained from the film as is the clay-making sequence.