2011-07: Dave Stewart : How I Put A New Spin On A Movie Classic : The Independent
Source: The Independent
There’s nothing quite like the massive onslaught that comes with pulling a musical together. I’ve made a lot of records, collaborated with different singers and worked on music for television and movies, but nothing prepared me for writing songs for musicals.
Although I’d worked on the musical version of Barbarella, an extremely complicated project by virtue of being all in German, working on Ghost (in English) still felt like mastering the Rubik’s Cube; sometimes you need to write songs that propel the story forward, sometimes songs that get an emotion across, and sometimes the songs have to weave in and out of each other.
The success of the original 1990 movie was down to its story – it’s so emotional and compelling. When I was approached by the producers and asked to write the songs and music for a musical version, I thought it was absolutely crucial to have Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote the original screenplay, on board.
I didn’t want to be making something that wandered too far from his original story; a story which is ultimately about how important it is to understand the moment you’re in, to not be crushed by whatever it was in your past that stops you from being able to share your love. I wanted that to remain intact, and I think it does.
Having met Bruce and found him to be a lovely and interesting man, I said that I would love to get involved and decided to bring my good friend, Glen Ballard on board too.
As a result, the sound and feel of the music in Ghost is a mixture of Glen and me. Does it sound like any of my other work? There are definitely sections where you can hear that I have tipped my hat to certain elements of my musical past. During the New York bank scene you can hear Eurythmics-style electronica mixed in with real string players.
Thinking about it, musicals are what got me into music in the first place. When I started to play the guitar at 13 or 14 years old it was all about Bob Dylan, of course. But my interest in music really began when I was around four or five years old. I remember that my father built a sort of radiogram that went all over our house. He took some wooden speakers and wired them up in the corners of my bedroom and my brother’s bedroom, as well as in the kitchen and the living room.
Although we lived in a terraced bungalow in Sunderland, the day he switched on these little wooden sound boxes, the whole house became a magical place. Every single morning before school, we’d listen to music, loud and clear.
And the music he played was always from musicals: The King and I, The Sound of Music and The Flower Drum Song. Before I had ever seen the movies or the plays, I used to stare at the album covers and imagine them. Then when I was around seven or eight years old, I remember seeing South Pacific for the first time on the screen and being gobsmacked. I spilled my sweets and popcorn all over the floor.
When it’s done well, putting music and theatre together can be transfixing. I would very much like to continue experimenting with music and theatre, bringing new ideas to it and collaborating with great people. I’m wary, though, because the collaborative experience on Ghost has been so great. With such a great team working on such a compelling story, I think we have created something really quite unique.
‘Ghost: The Musical’ , Piccadilly Theatre , London W1 (0844 871 7618) to 28 January
2011-06: Caissie Levy on Her Journey from <em>Wicked</em> and <em>Hair</em> to the London Premiere of <em>Ghost : Broadway.com</em>
Caissie Levy has starred in three iconic musicals: Wicked (in L.A., as Elphaba), Rent (on tour, as Maureen) and Hair (on Broadway and the West End, as Sheila). Now she’s taking the lead in a new musical adaptation of a much-loved movie, Ghost, which is headed to London’s Piccadilly Theatre on June 24, directed by Matthew Warchus. The Canadian-born actress is the only North American in this Brooklyn-set tale, adapted from an Oscar-winning film about love, death and the intense connection between the two. Before rehearsal one recent morning, Levy talked about the challenges of creating a brand new musical.
This time last year, you were starring in the London transfer ofHair. Now you’re headed back to the West End in a show that must seem worlds apart. I actually auditioned for Ghost the day before we closed Hair and then went off on a six-week backpacking trip; I think I was in Croatia when I got the call. It’s nice to have a little bit of familiarity with London and to feel part of the theater world here, but this also feels very different to the extent that I’m the token person from the States—well, North America, actually.
You’re Canadian? Absolutely. I grew up outside Toronto. I’m very much a Canadian girl, though I moved to New York when I was 19 to go to AMDA [American Musical and Dramatic Academy], so I got my green card and all that.
Is it odd to be the lone American-sounding person in a cast of Brits, performing a show set in Brooklyn? You know, I tend to run away when people ask me things, as if I’m any kind of accent expert; I actually try to avoid that at all costs. It’s not as if this cast has needed much help in the first place, and there are people around to help with questions like, “Is it Upper West Side [emphasis on West] or Upper West Side [emphasis on Side]. [Laughs.] What’s more incredible is that all our props actually come from New York: the door handles, coffee cups, everything!
It’s relatively rare for a London-bound show to get an out-of-town tryout in Manchester. What was that like? There’s nothing second-rate about doing it in Manchester, but it was just a great opportunity to work on the show away from the London critics—to get right something where the set, for example, is almost another character, and the projections and the magic, too. I think we were all blown away by the reception in Manchester. I learned enough about [British] audiences doing Hair to know that standing ovations here are not a given, and yet in Manchester they were up on their feet every night. The way we were embraced was very special.
Your Hair co-star Gavin Creel knows what it’s like to create a role in London—he did it in Mary Poppins. Gavin was like, “Why are you doing what I want to be doing? [Laughs.] He was one of the main reasons I was so excited to come over to London in the first place, and that I have been so thrilled to come back. I actually had dinner with Gavin last night. He’s in London writing and doing a bunch of recordings, so it’s great that he’s going to be able to see our show.
The Ghost movie, starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg, dates back to 1990. Might there be people in the audience who don’t know it? That’s possible, or that know it all too well! We are certainly aware that people have preconceived notions of what a movie turned into a musical is going to be, and this really isn’t that—even though it is written by Bruce Joel Rubin, who won an Oscar for the screenplay. Matthew [Warchus, director] likes to talk about turning a story into a musical, not a movie into a musical. We’re honoring the original story. It’s not a case of taking the film and throwing it on the stage, adding music, and calling it a day. Having done Hairspray, I would say this is much truer to that process.
Did you study the movie? The movie remains so much in the public consciousness that I don’t think—for me, anyway—it would be helpful to watch it again. I don’t want to have any kind of influence. I’d rather just remember watching it at my tenth birthday, when we all thought it was the sexiest thing! [Laughs.]
How demanding vocally is the part of Molly? It’s a big sing. I think I’ve got eight numbers, and I’m belting one minute and doing something lighter, more folksy the next. I also get these freak-out moments that are very Alanis Morissette-y [laughs]. I cry and scream, and it’s entirely do-able because once you get on that train, you don’t get off.
Sounds slightly like Wicked territory. It’s pretty close! The music by Glen and Dave [songwriters Glen Ballard and Dave Stewart, of Eurythmics renown] is emotional and exciting and rock- and pop-driven, but it retains the heart of the movie and gives the audiences plenty of twists and turns.
Do you think this might be a show for audiences and not necessarily critics—as has been true of Wicked? That’s entirely possible. [Ghost] has that kind of sweeping story and great score and these beautiful relationships between the characters, and it delivers to audiences that come in with open arms and open hearts. It’s not for me to second-guess what the critics may or may not say, but hopefully audiences will drive it all the way home.
What about offstage: Is it hard for you to open a show without your Hair “tribe”? That was such a super tight-knit experience and so emotional and thrilling. But this is a really lovely, generous company, and I’ve got my fiancé [David Reiser, an actor-turned-writer/producer] moving over from Los Angeles to London next week. Honestly? I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.