Siobhan Dillon and Mark Evans are now starring as Molly and Sam
A new West End hit has landed. 'Ghost the Musical' is a gleaming piece of stagecraft whose smoke, mirrors, full-throttle heartache and beguiling special effects put it light years ahead of many of its ageing competitors.
Musicals converted from movies tend to be weak, commercially opportunistic products compared to purpose-built shows. But Oscar-winning screenplay writer Bruce Joel Rubin ensures that his hankie-wringing thriller about love which comes back from the grave throbs on in its new incarnation.
There's no avoiding the fact that Dave Stewart and Glen Ballad's inserted musical numbers delay that story instead of advancing it. But the pumped up power ballads are a high-impact emotional workout for the marvellously full-throated leads – even if they do tend to bench press your feelings instead of caressing them.
Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman make the Demi Moore/Patrick Swayze roles of murdered banker Sam Wheat and his artist lover Molly their own. Andrew Langtree is wonderfully desperate and insidious as Sam's betraying buddy, Carl Bruner. And Sharon D Clarke is a mountain of much-needed comedy and charisma, belting her way to glory as the sham psychic who helps Sam avenge his death and touch his beloved Molly one last time.
The acting and singing has a quality which will impress you, even if this piece of 20-year-old New York gothic makes you want to giggle in all the wrong places. (The film's famous potter's wheel scene, where ghostly Sam caresses Molly as she gets dirty with a phallic lump of clay, could only be erotic in close-up and should probably have been cut entirely.)
But it's the show that dazzles. Illusionist Paul Kieve yanks spirits impressively out of dead bodies and sends them whooshing through walls. And the New York underworld is a gift to 'Enron' projectionist Jon Driscoll, the go-to guy if you want capitalism bubbling all over your set in the form of stock values and skylines. Kieve, Driscoll and designer Rob Howell create an electric shadow-filled world of greed and yearning, which choreographer Ashley Wallen peoples with corporate drones on conveyor belts.
The chorus of soft-shoe-shuffling New York dead look like odd vaudevillian hitchers in this slick, rapturous vehicle. But at least they bring a touch of ironic life to a show which emotes on the nexus of sex, death, grief and danger for most of its two hour 40 minute runtime.