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2011-07: Paul Downham
Rating: ***** (5 Stars)
On Tuesday night I ‘believe’ I witnessed the next chapter in modern musical history begin. Ghost the Musical officially opened at the Piccadilly Theatre in London’s West End, after a 7 week out of town preview in Manchester. After seeing the show at both venues I can tell you this show is going to rewrite the rules on how to stage a modern piece of musical theatre.
This star studded opening night in the West End saw celebrities including JLS, Bob Geldof, Richard Obrien, Mcfly and Arlene Phillips to name but a few walking up the red carpet into the magnificent Piccadilly Theatre which has been extensively redecorated prior to the shows residency.
Adapted for the stage by the film’s original author Bruce Joel Rubin every element of the movie and more is crammed into this two and a half hour emotional rollercoaster. Matthew Warchus, who is currently one of the greatest musical theatrical directors around, directs the show, while Paul Kiev who is responsible for many international shows as well as the Harry Potter series of movies recreates the illusions from the movie on the live stage. The original score and lyrics have been written by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard with additional lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin.
For those who do not know the story of Ghost, it’s a tragic story of two lovers, Sam and Molly who, having just become engaged are torn apart after Sam is murdered in a mugging that goes wrong. Sam becomes trapped as a Ghost between this world and the next and continues to protect Molly as he did in life, but now more so as he discovers the truth behind his death and the fact Molly is now in grave danger. Sam convinces a ‘phony’ store front psychic to help him communicate with Molly and bring his killer to justice but everything does not go to plan as Sam realises just who is friends really are.
Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy who recreate the roles of Sam and Molly are truly the stars of not only this show but of the West End, in the years to come these two names will be the hottest property of musical theatre. Richard made his West End stage debut in 2010 as Warner in Legally Blonde at the tender age of 21, while Caissie starred in West End revival of Rent in the same year after successful appearances in Hairspray and Wicked on Broadway. In the movie Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for her portrayal of storefront psychic Oda Mae Brown and Sharon D Clarke more than equals Whoopi’s performance, She got a round of applause after every scene she was in this evening, something I don’t think I have ever seen in the West End before. Andrew Langtree portrays the role of Carl Bruner expertly morphing between the guy next door into a reluctant member of the drugs underworld of murder and menace.
A talented ensemble that plays numerous roles during the show supports the principle foursome. Special mention should be made for Ivan de Freitas (Willie Lopez), Adebayo Bolaji (Subway Ghost) and Mark White (Hospital Ghost) who each haunt the stage in very different ways.
The true stars of this production are the set, lighting and special effects created nightly before your very eyes! A box stage consisting of semi transparent video walls swing back and forwards across the stage in countless orientations to create not only Sam and Molly’s love nest but every scene from the movie of which the subway train is the most astounding. Just how they manage to recreate the moment when Sam is pushed outside a moving Subway train really has to be seen to be believed and is testament to the ingenious design by Rob Howell and John Driscoll. Sam is also seen walking through a closed door and ghosts are stood next to their own bodies, all of this played out live in front of your eyes! I have seen no other show that makes use of such unbelievable special effects. The most amazing illusion comes at the climax of the show as Sam finally leaves this life for the next. I will say no more!
If you love the 1990 movie of Ghost you will equally love this stage show although knowledge of the original film does not stop you being captivated from the first note of the overture till the last tear has been dried from your eye. Men and women, young and old had tears in their eyes at the culmination of act 2 before a spontaneous deafening standing ovation which I am told has become custom since the 1st performance in Manchester 80 performances ago.
Ghost the Musical is here to stay and I predict will be seen in many, many countries around the world in the coming years. Believe.
2011-07: Peter Zsabo
When I first heard about Ghost as a musical, I was a bit sceptic. That iconic movie with such passion and a real sad story, I couldn’t imagine how could it be a top musical? Now I can say it is the most thrilling show on stage I have ever seen. Top cast, top music and top sets. To be honest I didn’t have many information about the cast, being a foreign in this country. I only heard about Caissie Levy as she was in the Broadway revival of Hair last year in London. That show was really something, the connection between the cast and audience was fantastic, and you really could get into the hippy mood. Hair is one of my favourite shows as I’ve seen it 25 times in my country (Hungary) and twice in London. So when I heard Caissie will be Molly I knew it straight I have to watch this show. I joined the facebook site of the show to make sure I am up-to-date all the time. I booked my ticket 2 months advance and could’t wait to see it live and of course meet with Caissie at stage door. I saw Ghost on 28th of June, so quite early in the London run.
I was so curious about the illusions, and of course of the tunes as well. Previously I could listen 4 songs on the official home page of Ghost, but listening a recorded song is not the same listen it live in the story. As soon as the show started, I knew it it will be spot on. ‘Here right now’ is a great kick off of the show, it can show the strenght of Caissie’s, Richard’s and Andrew’s voice. The connection between Caissie and Richard is amazing, you can tell they really like what they’re doing. And I have to say Richard must be the luckiest guy right now… I guess many man will be in his shoes 🙂 That part, when Sam dies everything happen so fast, and when you hear the shoot Sam is already up on his feet as a ghost. And you just can’t believe your eyes, how does that happened. Oda Mae appearance is the fun and joy in the show which is really good as it balance out the sadness and brings some laugh to us.
As the show is going on, you just feel you are totally into the story, the emotions, the feelings is soo real, and you would just jump on the stage and give Caissie a big hug when she sings ‘With You’. Sitting in the row C I could see, that is a real emotion and looking around the stalls you can see people getting their tissues out. If you lost someone really important in your life, this song is really brings tears into your eyes. Every word in this song is very heavy and even you crying you can’t stop listening this. I lost my grandma few months ago and when l listen this song I realize how much I miss her. For me “Thought my heart is broken, it keeps breaking every day” are the most powerful lines in a song.
All the songs are fenomenal, Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard are geniuses and the show found the best actors and actresses for the roles. I believe not many people could sing the songs like Caissie, Richard, Andrew and of course Sharon. These four could play the phonebook and you would still queue up to buy tickets. But with this story, with these musics and illusions this show is a real Must see! All the main points from the movie are on stage as well. You try to figure out how some of the illusions have been done. I was moving around to see how Sam walks trough the door but I have no idea. The best at the end, when Sam is just fade in from nothing and then fade out the same way. These illusions, what you’ve never seen on stage before, give the wow factor to the show and make it comlete. Getting a standing ovation every night is not usual here in London as I heard the londoners are very critical. But these people totally deserve it so don’t be afraid to stand up at the end of the show. I saw it once, and I can’t wait to see it again and again. I can recommend this show with confidence, you won’t be disappointed, and I’m sure you will want to watch it at least one more time as well .
2011-07 : Are You Still Mine - Hayley Alice Roberts
“Are you still mine?” A Review of “Ghost-The Musical”
I went to London on Monday night in order to attend a performance of the spectacularly beautiful “Ghost-The Musical” at the Picadilly theatre. The Musical is based on the Paramount Pictures film “Ghost” (1990) starring Patrick Swayze (as Sam Wheat), Demi Moore (as Molly Jensen) and Whoopi Goldberg (as Oda Mae Brown), it was written by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Jerry Zucker of the “Airplane” (1980) films. The film is mostly iconic for its pottery scene! I am not a big fan of romantic films in all honesty as I find them too predictable and overly cheesy, however “Ghost” was something different; its a tragic love story, and the tragedy was portrayed with the perfect mix of sadness and humour in this new musical version. I was ecstatic as for the first time in a West End Show I have seen the full original cast; the lead character Sam Wheat was portrayed by the incredibly talented Richard Fleeshman, he was formerly in “Coronation Street” (1960) playing the character Craig Harris from 2002-2006, Molly Jensen his partner was played by Broadway Actress Caissie Levy, her voice was so powerful which heightened the emotions as she played the grieving partner, Sharon D Clarke played the role of psychic Oda Mae Brown (originated by Whoopi Goldberg in the film) and was hilarious with adding the right blend of comedy to the show, her voice was also amazing bringing a more soulful sound to the music.
I have seen many spectacular shows on the west end over the years and all have been amazing but there was something about “Ghost-The Musical” that stood out and (excuse the pun) it does literally make you suspend your disbelief! The special effects were of a cinematic quality. I couldn’t believe my eyes when Sam actually walked through the door and vanished into thin air and of course near the end of the show when he is taunting evil Carl (played by Andrew Langtree) in his office, there was no one there and this guy was literally being flung across the room and messages were being typed on his computer from beyond the grave with no actor actually in sight. It was just phenomenal! The idea of having an illusionist on board of the production is ground-breaking in terms of theatre and creates a whole new dimension and a magical atmosphere.
A lot of digital imagery was used throughout the show in place of 2D scenery and as previously stated it made the show that more cinematic; the scenery that stood out the most for me was the busyness of the New York setting, with the buzzing city atmosphere, at this point the actors added to this effect by walking on a conveyor belt which created a busy pace and movement. I found the whole tone and mood of the show was very bittersweet; I felt very choked up throughout the whole performance, but I think it was mainly because of the strong performances given by all the actors. The scene that sticks out in my mind is where Sam has found out the truth regarding his murder; his expression is pained, and his emotions are emphasised by digital imagery, the anger is displayed in his face as he powerfully sings “I had a Life”. Again, the digital imagery conveyed to the audience at the beginning of the show, the relationship between Molly and Sam, with a surge of photographs of them together, insinuating they have been together for a long time (hence deciding to move in together), and all the happy times they have shared.
I thought one of the most beautiful images was of their hands clasping together displaying the strength of their relationship and then breaking apart the moment Sam dies, conveying that everything is now distorted and has fallen apart. The lightning in the show was also very effective, in order to portray that Sam is a ghost he constantly had a white light shone over him in order to separate him from the other human characters.
I really loved the songs in the musical, written by Dave Stewart, best known for being in the band the Eurythmics and Glen Ballard; they had a different sound to them in comparison to the Eurythmics style I was expecting. Most of them were stunning ballads; I especially loved Molly’s solo “With You”; Caissie Levy really created an empathy between the character and the audience demonstrating how lost Molly had become since losing the love of her life and the cruelty of having everything ripped away. In contrast Oda Mae Brown’s songs were a lot more upbeat and I think her number “I’m Outta Here” was much needed in order to lighten the mood at times, it was definitely your typical, fun, all singing all dancing dream sequence Broadway number; as I previously stated I liked the soulful style Sharon D Clarke brought to the performance.
“Ball of Wax” sang by the hospital ghost (Played by Mark White) came in not long after Sam’s death and was also in the same vain of a showy Broadway fun number, however I felt the transition between the death scene and this number was done too quickly and maybe a more subtle song should have been used, as I wasn’t quite sure what the audience was meant to feel, obviously sadness and confusion for Sam but then almost immediately it was like the audience is supposed to be humoured; but that’s just my opinion; maybe I felt those scene’s didn’t really fit together. I liked how they kept “Unchained Melody” in as alongside the pottery scene, the song is an iconic feature in relation to “Ghost” and its just a touching song that describes Sam’s situation after being torn apart from Molly. After an emotional rollercoaster of the first half, I enjoyed how the three characters came together (Molly, Sam and Carl) to conclude it displaying each of their conflicts in “Suspend my disbelief/I had a life”, this was extremely powerful and left the audience anticipating the second half.
The film version came out over 20 years ago back in 1990, therefore I liked how they had updated the story for the musical, for example when Molly is speaking to the police and they inform her Oda Mae Brown is nothing but a fraud they state the dates of all the times she committed fraud as during the last decade; I also loved the scene with the subway ghost when Sam is attempting to learn how to touch objects, “Focus” (performed by Adebayo Bolaji) was more of a rap number and definitely added a modern twist to the whole story. The villains depicted in the show were actually quite different from each other. Carl’s character was much more of a loose canon, very calculating and extremely smug, Willie Lopez (played by Ivan De Freitas) was more thuggish, I think having two different types of villains really complimented the show and added a sense of intensity.
In the film the final scene is probably my top tear-jerking moment in cinema, when Sam has finally made peace and is ready to cross over; I think nowadays what makes it that more emotional is because of the real-life death of the amazing Patrick Swayze; I actually find it difficult talking about that scene without getting emotional. By this point in the show the waterworks had really set off, and the scene did that moment in the film justice. Its just the little things in the scene such as the dialogue that makes it all the more poignant e.g. Sam’s line “I love you” and Molly simply replying “Ditto”; (if you’re a fan you will get what I mean!). As an audience we know that this is the last time they are ever going to see each other and its just so heartbreaking; that single image of Sam walking into the distance and fading away is just so emotional.
One thing I want to comment on is that Richard Fleeshman really impressed me, he has grown and developed so much as an actor and made a strong leading man, I think he definitely has a great future ahead of him. So there it is, my review on “Ghost- The Musical” I definitely recommend it to people who love the film however it is not necessary to see it first, the show is a whole, stunning, electrifying and emotional performance that I will never forget. Book Now and Always Believe…
2011-06-24 : London : First Night Impressions (Paul Downham)
Ultimate Eurythmics is pleased to introduce to you our new guest contributor, huge supporter of Ghost The Musical since its opening in Manchester earlier this year, Paul Downham who has seen the show now 12 times. Here’s Paul’s summary on the twitter activity after last night’s opening performance. Welcome Paul!
Ghost the Musical has now opened in London’s West End at the Piccadilly Theatre, and by the sounds of the initial feedback it’s going to fit in quite well.
Still only in previews until the 19th July a lot of die hard fans from the Manchester pre West End try out had missed out on tickets for this performance as it was initially scheduled to open 2 days prior on the 22nd. So the majority of the audience for this opening performance were new to the Ghost experience.
After seeing this show 12 times myself in Manchester it’s fair to say I know the show inside out however, a number of changes have been made to what I believed was a pretty faultless show in readiness for the London debut. The one most talked about change was the iconic pottery scene. Is it a good change or not? The London audience may not notice a difference but the northern believers may do and will form their own opinions!
Now so what did the audience think of tonight’s show? Here is a collection of the comments made:-
- Ghost is amazing!! I am speechless, the sets and cast are brilliant!!
- That was truly an AMAZING piece of theatre. This a MUST people. So clever and such a talented cast. Can’t pick a favourite bit, was all brilliant! Class!!
- WoW, Ghost is amazing!! The effects are stunning, I still don’t know how they do some of them. Worth seeing. Am still trying to work out the illusions, brilliant piece of theatre!
- Ghost was amazing! Still took my breath away even after seeing it for the 10th time. Richard and Caissie are amazing!
- Ghost was stunning. Best show I have ever seen. So amazing being there on opening night. Richard and Caissie are incredible!
Initial reports seem to suggest that the success of Ghost in Manchester has transferred down to London well. It is the most technically advanced show currently in the West End however, this counts for nothing if the show does not live up to the technology! I will watch the next 3 weeks very closely to see what additional changes are made before Ghost is presented to worlds press on the 19th July.
I think we can safely say Ghost the Musical has already established itself within the West End community and is looking forward to a long reign at the Piccadilly!
Paul Downham 25th June 2011