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A CurtainUp London Review
Ghost the musical
The opening scenes between Molly Jensen (Cassie Levy) and Sam Wheat (Richard Fleeshman) concentrate on those arguments and small niggles that couples have which you wish you had never pursued once the relationship is over, and of course this relationship ends in tragedy. Sam is murdered in a bungled attempt to steal his wallet. His banking colleague and friend Carl Brunner (Andrew Langtree) has set up the street mugging so that he can get access to Sam's banking codes to cover up Carl's fraudulent money laundering activities. Sam becomes a ghost and when he sees that Molly is in danger from Willie Lopez (Ivan de Freitas), the punk who killed him, he recruits Harlem medium Oda Mae Brown (Sharon D Clarke) to help.
Whilst both Richard Fleeshman and Cassie Levy as Sam and Molly can belt out their numbers, often strong love ballad duets, it is the singing from Sharon D Clarke as Oda Mae in her heavy rock and soul, tuneful songs "Are You a Believer?" and "I'm Outta Here" sung atop a set of Louis Vuitton trunks, which brings the production to a musical high point. I very much liked the scenes on the subway train brilliantly projected with Adebayo Bolaji as the aggressive Rastafarian Subway Ghost in acrobatic fight manoeuvres who teaches Sam to move objects in the material world, in the number "Focus."
There are many sensational visuals and bright lighting shifts creating a spectacular show. Paul Kieve has created some magic illusions, so that we see Sam shot and immediately his ghost like figure springs to life while leaving his body there. Clever stuff! The choreography reflects the New York business world of hectic motion with more projected dancers doing virtual cartwheels and back flips. What worked less for me is the scene of crowded ghosts in the hospital in the number "Ball of Wax" introducing Sam to the spirit world.
The best comedy is from Sharon D Clarke and her pair of charlatan spiritualists, Clara and Louise (Lisa Davina Phillip and Jenny Fitzpatrick). I loved their scene where they put client Mrs Santiago in touch with her deceased relative only to be spooked by the appearance of a "real" ghost. The acting performances are so convincing that I was really involved and found Richard Fleeshman's predicament believable and touching. Sam's big number "Suspend My Disbelief/I Had a Life" closes the First Act after Molly's sad song looking back on their life together "With You". I didn't find Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard's tunes memorable on first hearing but maybe on repeat they will be. The lyrics are fine and not toe curling. The live band gives good support. And yes there is a pottery scene with a wheel and Molly throwing a pot onstage.
If you like your musicals full on, then Ghost the musical is for you!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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