Saturday, 6 February 2016

Ghost The Musical, Feb 6 2016 ****


Book & Lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin, Music & Lyrics by Dave Stewart & Glen Ballard
Based on the 1990 movie, Ghost, by Bruce Joel Rubin
Regent Theatre, Melbourne, until March 13, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****
Rob Mills & Jemma Rix

In a spectacular display of technical wizardry, tear-jerking songs and tragic romance, Ghost The Musical exploded onto the stage at the Regent Theatre last night to an enthusiastic, opening night crowd.

Bruce Joel Rubin’s book is a theatrical re-imagining of his Oscar-winning screenplay for the 1990 movie, Ghost, but it is Matthew Warchus’ inventive direction that makes this production remarkable by bringing together comic and tragic narrative threads, characters, original songs and startling illusions.

This fantasy romance set in New York City, explores the powerful emotional connection that links lovers, Sam Wheat (Rob Mills), a banker, and Molly Jensen (Jemma Rix), a sculptor, even after Sam’s death.

After a romantic dinner, Sam and Molly are mugged and Sam dies of his injuries but he remains caught in the netherworld between life and afterlife trying to communicate the truth about his murder to the grieving Molly.

Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics’ fame) and Glen Ballard’s songs reveal the characters’ inner worlds in a repertoire of styles ranging from power ballads to pop and rock, blues, soul and gospel, all played by a tight, seven-piece band.

Rix’s Molly is a sincere, sympathetic character and Rix’s expressive voice, bright timbre and impressive control and vocal range bring emotional depth to the heart-wrenching song, With You, and to Suspend My Disbelief and Nothing Stops Another Day.

Her voice blends enchantingly with Mills’ warm tones in memorable love duets including Here Right Now, Three Little Words and their final reprise of Unchained Melody (by Hy Zaret, Alex North), the song that featured in the movie’s famous pottery wheel scene.
 Jemma Rix
Mills’ acoustic rendition of Unchained Melody is warmly playful but his delivery of I Had A Life is impassioned and he packs a punch singing More, a tune about financial greed, with David Roberts who plays Sam’s friend and colleague, Carl.

Roberts deftly captures the frenetic, addled banker, Carl, who is torn between his friendship with Sam and Molly and his own foolhardiness and greed.

His trio with Mills and Rix (Suspend My Disbelief/I Had a Life) is exceptional with its soaring harmonies and three-part vocals and their second trio, Life Turns On A Dime, is equally compelling.

If you imagine a hybrid of Aretha Franklin and Whoopi Goldberg you have Wendy Mae Brown with her big voice and impeccable comic delivery.

Brown plays Oda Mae Brown (Yep, same name!), the con artist and unwilling psychic through whom Sam communicates with Molly.

The audience cheers after Brown’s songs, Are You A Believer and Talkin’ ‘Bout A Miracle, but they go wild when she belts out the big soul number, I’m Outta Here, engaging her bold voice and audacious sassiness, supported by the vivacious chorus and funky choreography (Ashley Wallen).
 Wendy Mae Brown & ensemble
Illusionist Paul Kieve’s miraculous, visual trickery is gob-smacking, creating illusions of ghosts passing through walls or floating in the air and objects flying through space.

Jon Driscoll’s complex video projections, enhanced by Hugh Vanstone’s evocative lighting, add another dimension that creates the streets of New York, train stations and spirits vanishing in a vaporous cloud.

The least successful elements in the show include a few less than dynamic songs, Mills’ limited expressive range in scenes when Sam must stand around merely watching and waiting, and an occasional lack of chemistry between Sam and Molly.

Some may find this show to be schmaltzy and too much like a romantic chick flick, but Ghost The Musical is faithful to the original movie while still creating a satisfyingly innovative theatrical production. It’s a great date show!

By Kate Herbert

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