Bruce Joel Robin’s stage adaptation of the blockbuster romantic film comes to the Grand Opera House by the city’s own York Stage Musicals company. It’s the well-loved story of murdered banker Sam Wheaton. He attempts to contact his potter girlfriend Molly Jensen from “limbo” to save her from the same fate at the hands of their double-crossing friend Carl Brunner. This lends itself perfectly to a musical version. However, to do such an iconic film full of cinematic legends (who could forget Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg’s captivating performances?) justice is no mean feat. But artistic director Nik Briggs’ production definitely has some memorable moments.
The show opens with images projecting onto a screen with a net. It hangs in front of the stage during the introductory song and the first scene. Yorkshire-based Flapjack Films video cast members to produce footage to play over the top of the actors to enhance the storyline. For example, to bring more intensity to a scene where Sam and Molly are “making out” on their sofa. The use of multimedia throughout the musical is a great addition. The larger-than-life visuals used on video screens really crank up highly emotional scenes in the dingy subway and when other characters are unceremoniously dispatched to Hell.
Ghost The Musical: “Charm and desperation”
The use technology and media is impressive. There’s a fairly simple staging in terms of settings and props. Plus, a traditional orchestra perpetuates the juxtaposition between the two worlds explored throughout the show. These being that of the living and of the afterlife trying to connect. The combination allows us to further suspend our disbelief as the audience can see the manifestation of the ghosts on stage throughout as the cast members “cannot”. There are seamless transitions between cast members and additional body doubles lying on the stage. Trickier elements, like dealing with supernatural apparitions on stage as opposed to screen, are neatly handled.
One easily forgot at times that it was an amateur production due to quality of the performances. Daniel Conway as Sam and York’s own Blues singer Jess Gardham, who portrays Ida Mae Brown, are both very impressive as solo singers. But they also work brilliantly together as ghost and phony psychic to bring lots of comedic relief to the show. Joe Wawrzyniak’s duplicitous depiction of Carl expertly combines the charm and desperation needed to create the play’s surprise villain. Jonny Holbeck’s manic Subway Ghost is captivating and frightening in equal measures.
However, the standout performance is Lauren Sheriston’s portrayal of Molly. Both her acting and incredible singing draw you in completely. Her heartbreaking rendition of ‘With You’ had me and the majority of the packed house in tears. Her emotional bow to the audience at the end of the musical clearly shows her sheer talent and dedication to the role right until the curtain finally falls.