Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
I’m not fully on board the make-a-musical-out-of-an-old-movie-and-play-on-people’s-nostalgia train, but I like to keep an open mind: absolutes are rarely helpful, and a pleasant surprise is a welcome thing. But, sadly, Ghost The Musical only confirms my prejudice. It feels like a copy, like something filmic shoehorned into awkward theatricality.
It’s not awful. As far as sentimental love stories go, it hits the mark. The plot (by Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote the original film script as well as the book for this version) is – if a little mawkish – at least quirky and fun. Molly (Rebekah Lowings) and Sam (Niall Sheehy) are a young couple, who’ve just bought their first apartment – a do-er upper in Brooklyn – and are looking forward to a shared future. However, Sam discovers some irregularities in his accounts at work and, before he can figure out what’s going on, he’s killed in a seemingly random attack. His ghost, unsettled, can’t leave until the situation is resolved, and there are things he needs to tell Molly. So he commandeers some help from convicted fraudster and reluctant medium, Oda Mae (Jacqui Dubois), and sets out to put matters right.
There are some excellent set pieces here. Particular standouts for me are the sequences set on the New York subway, where Sam enlists the help of the Subway Ghost (Lovonne Richards). These scenes are technically impressive, and Richards’ performance is genuinely intimidating, far scarier than the rather insipid moments where the dead baddies are dragged to hell. I also like every scene that features Oda Mae. Dubois is a charismatic force, and she’s lucky, because she has the funniest jokes and the best songs. It’s a gift of a part, and Dubois makes the most of it.
Lowings and Sheehy are also competent performers, both engaging and sympathetic. And Sergio Pasquariello does a decent turn as Carl, the heavily-signposted villain (honestly, this isn’t a spoiler; there’s never anybody else in the frame). But the songs (by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard) aren’t really memorable, and the whole thing just feels a bit drama-by-numbers for my taste.
Look, if you loved the movie, you’ll probably like this. It’ll set off all those feelgood tingles, and you’ll have a lovely time. Just don’t go expecting anything more.