Review by Penny Mulvey
Theatre tickets are expensive, particularly the large-scale music theatre productions. As a result, audiences tend to revisit tried and true favourites such as Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera or The Lion King ahead of new musicals. Backing a new production presents a significant risk for the producers in small markets such as Australia, so it is not surprising that GHOST The Musical has only very short runs across four cities in the first half of 2016.
With that introduction, if you like a good musical then GHOST The Musical is definitely a winner. And it will not matter if you have never seen Ghost the movie, (THE love story of the 1980s, starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze). Lack of prior knowledge will not impact your appreciation of the show as it has all the ingredients of success – passion, drama, intrigue, humour, strong musical numbers, a great ensemble and magic.
Set design is a key element to this production. Large projections enable quick scene shifts, taking the audience from the busy New York streets to the underground metro, to a banker’s office. If you are wondering how a live show can replicate the train scene with the subway ghost and Sam Wheat, imagine a more sophisticated version of ‘smoke and mirrors’. It works!
GHOST tells the story of Sam (Rob Mills) and Molly (Jemma Rix), an up-and-coming banker and a talented potter, enjoying city living until Sam is shot and killed in a botched street robbery. The Righteous Brothers’ song, Unchained Melody, remains a feature of the story, along with 13 new songs written by the original playwright, Bruce Joel Rubins.
One of the highlights is Sam’s interaction with Oda Mae Brown, a storefront psychic, played deliciously by British performer Wendy Mae Brown. Are You a Believer? performed by Oda Mae and her two sidekicks Clara (Evette Marie White) and Louise (Lydia Warr) is high-energy theatre at its best.
Every element of this production works. The many ensemble scenes, requiring numerous costume changes, demonstrate an old fashioned understanding of the heart of music theatre – memorable song and dance numbers, characters that the audience can connect with and a strong storyline.
GHOST is fun. It is a highly professional production presented by elite dancers, music theatre specialists, musicians, with marvellous illusions and other special effects. However, if you want to see it, you need to move quickly. It leaves Melbourne’s Regent Theatre for Sydney on 12 March, and from Sydney it opens in Perth 21 May.