Adapting a film for the stage is not an inherently terrible idea – just look at Legally Blonde. I was indifferent to the original, but even knowing the musical version had picked up three Laurence Olivier Awards did little to assuage that sense of “Who in their right mind would do such a thing?” as we entered the theatre. Suffice to say, by the end I was entirely won over.
When it comes to Ghost The Musical, the ‘who’ is Bruce Joel Rubin, the screenwriter for the 1990 supernatural romance, Ghost. Rubin won an Oscar for his script back then – just as Whoopi Goldberg won for Best Supporting Actress in the role Wendy Mae Brown inhabits here to uneven effect – and if anyone could keep the spirit (ha) of the original alive, you suspect it would be him. Yet from start to finish, Ghost The Musical is an exercise in smoke and mirrors. The otherworldly effects are in fine form, with great visual projections (though nothing to rival Les Misérables’ recent forays into high-end stagecraft) and lighting. But it is not enough to save a tedious score of the most familiar Broadway flourishes and dialogue that tumbles from the performers’ mouths like lead weight.
There is not a single song here that doesn’t sound as though has been plucked from anSNL parody skit, with the tragic exception of the Righteous Brothers’ ‘Unchained Melody’. Even this classic – used to such iconic effect in the film – collapses in an unseemly heap as a ghostly Rob Mills weaves a distracting harmony while the original sounds from a nearby radio. Earlier, Mills serenades co-star Jemma Rix with an acoustic version that largely succeeds in putting a fresh interpretation on the familiar ode, but the subsequent refrains make certain that any lasting sentiment is abandoned.
Both Rix and Mills have impassioned voices, but the material here is just too woeful for words, and the chemistry between the pair never ignites. Curiously, some of the production’s finer moments come from the ensemble cast’s vocals, although the dance sequences are an awkward affair. Similarly, David Denis does his utmost in throwing himself into character, but the Subway Ghost role itself is a laughable, clunky exaggeration of a rap-spouting lost soul.
A flashy stage and conspicuously loud score does not a quality musical make. With immediately forgettable songs and lacklustre script, this is one you should happily avoid. Better to just watch the movie.
Image: Jeff Busby
Ghost The Musicalis now playing at the Theatre Royal.