January 11, 2016

Haunting melodies

Ghost : The Musical
Book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin
Music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard
Based on the Paramount Pictures film written by Bruce Joel Rubin
Ambassador Theatre Group Asia Pacific, GWB Entertainment and Adelaide Festival Centre in association with Colin Ingram, Hello Entertainment and Paramount Pictures.

Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre.
January 9. Tickets: $ 64.90 – $ 129.90
Bookings : BASS 131246 or
Until January 31.
Duration: 2 hours 45 minutes including interval.
National dates: Regent Theatre, Melbourne from February 5, 2016.
Theatre Royal Sydney from March 18, 2016.
Crown, Perth from May 21, 2016.

Twenty five years after it became the surprise hit of 1990 – grossing $500 million and earning Oscars for writer Bruce Joel Rubin and comedian Whoopi Goldberg – Ghost is now a musical. The book has been lightly updated by Rubin and a bunch of likeable songs have been added from UK pop legend and former Eurythmic, Dave Stewart and prodigious writer, and Jagged Little Pill producer, Glen Ballard.

It is still the same odd mix of small-scale romance tragedy and low comedy. Molly Jensen and Sam Wheat have just set up a love nest in their Brooklyn loft and he is murdered in a street mugging. Sam goes to the bogus psychic, Oda May Brown who discovers she really is a spiritual medium and helps our ethereal hero save Molly from the clutches of Carl Bruner, Sam’s Wall Street colleague and friend-gone-bad who is killing his pals to cover–up industrial scale money laundering.

Director Matthew Warchus presides over a stylish production which mashes together poignant melodrama with snazzy special effects. With a top-rate creative team including grainy urban images from video and projection designer Jon Driscoll, eye-popping colour from lighting wiz Hugh Vanstone, optical tricks from illusionist Paul Kieve and enveloping soundscapes from Bobby Aitken, Ghost is not only amazing to the eye and ear, but keeps a human pulse as well.

Australian fans of the excellent leads, Jemma Rix and Rob Mills, will be delighted to know there is life after Wicked. They have real rapport as Molly and Sam, crooning in duets such as the opener Here Right Now and Three Little Words. Mills delivers a wry version of the righteous classic, Unchained Melody and Rix breaks hearts with the gentle pop lyricism of With You and Nothing Stops Another Day.

As Carl, Alex Rathgeber, plausibly underplays the villain, especially as the first big production number More, shrewdly establishes the motivating greed-is-good New York banking culture as a trap for all young number-crunchers. Making Whoopi as the table rapping Oda Mae Brown, near-namesake Wendy Mae Brown, mostly navigates the dated stereotypes of her character – and delivers a show-stopping turn with the Aretha-like, I’m Outta Here .

Led by Dave Skelton, the seven piece band is in top form, and the ensemble is crisply drilled for Ashley Wallen’s choreography. The subway train scenes- and David Denis’s hip-hop Subway Ghost routine – are highlights, as are all the expertly integrated visual effects. Sam walks through walls, objects move of their own volition, poltergeists go bump and gravity is stubbornly defied. Ghost is an engaging phantom opera and its theatrics are out of this world.

Murray Bramwell

“Haunting melodies”, The Australian, January 11, 2016, p.12.

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