Source : Citylife

Opera House – March 28 to May 14, 2011 (from Monday)

Not much is being left to chance, let alone other-worldly intervention, at the world premiere at the Opera House next week of the stage version of movie mega-hit Ghost.

Amidst the barrage of statistics about zillions of miles of cabling, you can even find out that 300 empty pizza boxes have been imported as props from Brooklyn, along with painter’s scaffolding, a sledgehammer, funeral wreath and a door peephole (because you know how picky critics can be!), while leading lady Caissie Levy, who plays Molly, and her two understudies, have been taught to throw pots by professional potters Stephen Llewellyn and Katie Adams just so that they can act the iconic pottery scene with appropriate aplomb.

Yet amidst all the frenetic activity and general malarkey that inevitably surrounds a big-budget world premiere, musician Dave Stewart, who has written all the new music along with the Grammy-winning Glen Ballard, is still the very model of rock ’n’ roll insouciance.

As you might expect, I suppose from a decades-long career that has found Stewart not only selling millions of records as Eurythmics, with his former partner Annie Lennox, but also working with what seems like practically everyone else in the music world, from Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Tom Petty to Celine Dion, Bryan Ferry and Nelson Mandela. He’s even collaborated with those Russian pop minxes Tatu!

His widely-overlooked album Sly-Fi was the first album ever to be released solely on the internet, he’s made a pretty good documentary film on Delta Blues as well as a somewhat less successful feature film starring All Saints, and he’s even got a bit of previous form on the unlikely-film-to-musical front, having written Barbarella, based on the 1968 camp classic, which ran for, ooh, several months in Vienna in 1994.

He has, in short, been around a bit and, you might reasonably assume, no longer feels like he’s got much to prove.

Or, to put it another way, he ain’t afraid of no Ghost.

Which is not to say there aren’t unique issues with a musical.

“Usually as a songwriter, you just say ‘it goes like this’ and that’s it,” he points out. “But here you might have the director saying, ‘You know, if this lasts longer than three minutes 19 seconds, this actor is going to get hit on the back of the head by a piece of very heavy equipment that’s moving!’, or ‘This is where Sam has to walk through a wall, you know’, so the actor really needs to be concentrating on that!

“So that’s odd. But I have had some experience of that, with the Barbarella show, and having been through the process and knowing how everything keeps changing all the time depending on what the director wants helps a lot. Also, it’s a lot easier writing songs in English, I have to say!”

Mind you, I point out, the last time we’d met had been when he was with his old mucker Ringo in Liverpool, where the sarky moptop’s facility with the English language had actually got him into a lot of trouble.

“Yeah, it’s funny that he’s got that very dark Liverpudlian sense of humour and yet when he uses it on Liverpool, they go bonkers!

“We’re still working together, though, on a musical movie called The Hole In The Fence.

“It’s about these five kids who do what we all do when we’re kids, which is climb over the fence, or go through a hole, into somewhere and then that becomes anything you want. Then they discover that there’s something dodgy going on there that they don’t really understand.

“Meanwhile, the music and arts department is closing down at their school, like is happening in a lot of places in England and America now.

“There’s another strand with one of the kids years later, who’s now teaching at that same school and he’s written a musical about all those years ago, which he’s teaching to the kids there now.

“We’re at the point now where we’ve got a script and about eight or nine songs. But, of course, that will all change when a director’s on board just as this show did when Matthew Warchus came along as director.

“Suddenly everything’s upside down and inside out but, of course, you want that because you want the captain of the ship to be in charge.”

So how did he get involved in Ghost: The Musical, a concept which even the movie’s – and now the show’s – writer Bruce Joel Rubin had originally had serious qualms about?

“It was about three years ago,” Stewart recalls, “and it was at the very beginning, just after the producers had persuaded Bruce that this really could be something special and not just the movie on stage.

“So they asked me if I might be interested in doing the music.

“I said I would be if I could meet Bruce and I could also bring in my friend Glen Ballard.

“We have studios together on Hollywood Boulevard and we see each other nearly every day.

“I like collaborating and we have no ego about trying this or that to find the best thing rather than people trying to protect their own involvement.

“So we agreed and then spent weeks and weeks with Bruce, although we didn’t have a director yet, going through his script and rewriting some of his words and starting to put music to them.

“Then we had something kind of finished so we could do a little workshop. That was filmed and that was what got Matthew Warchus involved as a director.

“People had brought the idea of a musical version of Ghost before and I’d said no, that there was no upside,” remembers Rubin. “All I could imagine was other writers making a stage show that I just really didn’t want to see! And why would you do that?

“But something happened with these guys (producers Colin Ingram and David Garfinkle) that convinced me it could work.

“I was inspired also by the way Lee Hall and Stephen Daldry had deconstructed Billy Elliot to change it from a movie into a stage show.

“So, once I’d agreed to this project about four-and-a-half years ago, I had to learn – more than I’d thought! – how to write for the stage, rather than for film, which I’d anticipated, and also to sit down and write lyrics, which was rather unexpected!

“But I just felt that I wanted to protect the musical and the way to do that was to create a set of lyrics that at least described where I thought this particular song should be and what it should be about. Then they were taken very seriously and Dave started putting them to music and so on. We did 20 songs that way.

“Then Matthew came on board and said, very politely, ‘Bruce, your songs are fine, but we have two of the best songwriters in the world working on this show. Why don’t we let them have a go at this?’

“It was like a dagger to my heart, to be honest,” he laughs. “But what I had to keep saying to myself is, ‘You know, Bruce, this is a good show and you are served better by that.’

“So they started to doctor, fix, rewrite and, in some cases, completely compose new songs. But what was really remarkable about it, was that with all these voices we found an ego-less way of making one voice and the songs have the sound of one voice. I honestly think we’ve got a great team and a great show.”