I’ve always had a slight addiction to musicals from first watching Les Mis when I was 14, and I am an absolute sucker for anything romantic, especially if it involves handsome men singing to beautiful girls, so I didn’t find this particularly hard to get excited about. The show is based on the 1990 movie starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, later famous for the song ‘Unchained Melody’ and the iconic romantic scene that takes place at a pottery wheel. No further explanation needed.
I was initially disappointed with the lack of chemistry between the performers, especially the lead couple Molly Jensen (Siobhan Dillon) and Sam Weaks (Mark Evans). The love between them is such a pivotal thing for this show, and although I am sure they worked incredibly hard, to me it seemed very rehearsed and not at all genuine. I appreciate it is always difficult with West End shows - going through the same thing night after night and keeping it real - but unless that initial connection is there it is always challenging to maintain an audience, and that is how it felt for me.
However, there were moments that I did really enjoy, and things did improve as the show carried on. The small scenes that they had obviously rehearsed over and over were delivered perfectly – my particular favourite being the way Sam reacted when he saw Molly getting in a mood, chasing her with a guitar and singing a rather beautiful a-capella version of ‘Unchained Melody’, which I have to say was pretty cute. As the plot develops and Sam is murdered, Molly is left to fend for herself with Sam always remaining as a supernatural presence around her, a constant reminder of the life they both once shared. The crucial scene where he is taken from her is supposed to set the precedent for the rest of the play, and his transformation into a ghost is supposed to be clear and evident, but this wasn’t the case. There was nothing that distinguished him from the person he was before the accident. Unfortunately, for me it felt as though the important bits in this production had been compromised, which made the rest of the show difficult to connect with.
Despite the lead cast members leaving much to be desired, I did really enjoy one particular character that stood out from the very beginning. As a way of coping with his grief and separation Sam stumbles across a psychic medium Oda Mae Brown (Sharon D Clarke), who allows him to connect with Molly as a way of comforting her and showing that even though he is not there he will always love her. Clarke played this perfectly – she was the soulful sister from Spanish Harlem with a fantastic voice and superb presence, reminding me slightly of Whoopi Goldberg (who took the role in the original movie). Her cheerful spirits gave the show a lift and she sung with true and honest passion. Although she wasn’t particularly emotionally involved in the story, she did allow the characters to come together as well as bringing some well-deserved comic relief from all the ballads and broken hearts.
The end of the show was actually the part I enjoyed most, as it seemed that people were (finally) beginning to feel real emotion. As Molly realises that Sam will not be around forever, she starts to rebuild her life and learns that she can survive by herself. Her final encounter with him takes place in the living room of their apartment as Oda Mae brings him to her in full human form and he reminds her how much he loves her, dances with her and sings ‘Unchained Melody’ for the last time. It was actually quite beautiful, as the audience knew he would eventually fade away, yet she was entirely convinced of him being around her, bringing her strength and allowing her to carry on.
It is unusual to find a musical that deals with heartbreak, grief and intimate emotions as closely as Ghost does, but I still found it hard to connect at times with Sam and Molly’s chemistry as an ordinary couple. This made it hard to fully embrace the concept of the show, although I have no doubt that the performers worked extremely hard and I did enjoy some elements of it.
Name of Show: Ghost: the Musical
Book: Bruce Joel Rubin
Composer/Music: Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard
Lyrics: Bruce Joel Rubin/Dave Stweart/Glen Ballard
Premiered: 28 March 2011 (Manchester Opera House)
This Production Opened: 24th June 2011
Tweet: A couple are torn apart by his tragic murder, but he refuses to leave and remains as a ghost - based on the smash movie.
Synopsis: Sam and Molly are in love. Everything is too good to be true, until Sam is brutally murdered in a plot concerning the transfer of some money into his account. Left alone and grieving, Molly begins to fall apart until she is contacted by psychic Oda Mae Brown. Sam is desperate to prove how much he loves her, so manages to remain on earth as a ghost, but Molly takes much more convincing, believing she is part of some kind of cruel trick. As Molly begins to rebuild her life, finding her strength through friends and Oda Mae, she is given one last time to see her Sam, and he proves that their love will never fade.
- Sam and Molly on the pottery wheel.
- The song ‘Unchained Melody’.
Why See It: Romance, heartbreak and drama. Cute idea for couples.
Caveat: Overload of emotions, predictable, not a very inventive storyline
- The pottery wheel scene has been parodied in a huge number of comedy programmes, including Saturday Night Live, Family Guy and Futurama.
- In the original film, the dark shadows had the voices of babies, slowed down to a crawl - but heaven knows what they've done for the show!
- Molly tells Sam he leads 'a charmed life' just before he dies - a reference to Macbeth, where he describes himself as having 'a charmed life' just before he is killed!
Believe In Love GHOST is a timeless fantasy about the power of love. Sam is trapped as a ghost between this world and the next trying to communicate with his girlfriend Molly through a phoney psychic in the hope of saving her from his murderer. A roller-coaster ride of romance, drama and excitement, GHOST has been adapted for the stage by Bruce Joel Rubin who, in 1991, won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. GHOST features stunning new music and lyrics by music legends Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (writer of Michael Jackson's Man In The Mirror) whose combined album sales top 250 million: the score also features the unforgettable Unchained Melody. Directed by the multi-award-winning Matthew Warchus, designed by Rob Howell with lighting by Hugh Vanstone: a team whose recent credits include God of Carnage, Deathtrap, La Bete and range from work in opera, film and with all of our major theatre companies, including the recent highly-acclaimed Matilda for the RSC. Stage effects are by Magic Circle member, Paul Kieve, illusionist for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and choreography is by Ashley Wallen, who has worked with Kylie Minogue, Black Eyed Peas and X Factor. GHOST is a magical night out that will send spirits soaring.Please note: the Grand Circle is high and steep.
Piccadilly Theatre16 Denman Street
London Greater London United Kingdom W1D 7DY
Duration: 2hrs 30mins
Mark Evans (Sam Wheat), Siobhan Dillon (Molly Jensen) and Andrew Langtree (Carl Bruner) © Matt Crockett
Carl Bruner (Andrew Langtree) © Sean Ebsworth Barnes
Sam Wheat (Mark Evans) and Molly Jensen (Siobhan Dillon) © Matt Crockett