Ghost The Musical : Reviews from Manchester

Here’s a summary of reviews for Ghost The Musical when it was first previewed for 7 weeks in Manchester

5/5 Citylife

Source : Citylife

After months of intense advance publicity Ghost The Musical officially materialised last night and, amazingly, it lives up to the hype.

Starring local lad Richard Fleeshman in the Patrick Swayze role of a ghost trapped between this world and the next, the show is based on the 1990 film that became something of a worldwide classic.

And it follows the movie’s five-hanky snifflefest story very closely…

Sam (Fleeshman) is murdered on a New York street one night as he is going home with his girlfriend Molly (Caissie Levy).

But such is the power of the couple’s love that instead of going straight to his rightful place in the sky, Sam’s spirit is left struggling to communicate with Molly and warn her that she, too, is in danger.

The adaptation is by Bruce Joel Rubin himself, the original creator of the film script, and he and his collaborators have managed to musical-ise it with astonishing success.

It’s now a dramatic love story thriller musical with absolutely killer state-of-the-art staging that manages to recreate virtually all the scenes from the film to produce a show with a gripping, edge-of-the-seat, storyline – you really do want to know what happens next

The ghost on the subway, the ghost in the hospital, the fights, the infamous potters’ wheel (though, thankfully only very briefly) are all here.

The score, by Dave (Eurythmics) Stewart and Glen Ballard is belt-it-out tuneful but not memorable, the underscoring of the drama is the clever part. I didn’t come out humming anything and I didn’t like the dancing ghosts.

Fleeshman and Levy are both fine, both have the required vocal power to push the score across and there’s a convincing rapport between them.

Sharon D Clarke, in the Whoopi Goldberg role of the comic fake psychic, has one show-stopping number and she grabs hold of her other scene-stealing moments with glee. Andrew Langtree’s smiling villain is well cast too.

It looks jaw-droppingly amazing.  The stage is surrounded by huge sliding video screens that can conjure up anything and everything.

There’s an ensemble for street and office scenes that have moves from Kylie’s choreographer and a director in Matthew Warchus who comes from opera and Broadway and is clearly worth whatever they’re paying him.

Paul Kieve’s illusions get more and more impressive as the show reaches its climax.

The fact that this world premiere is happening at the Opera House, is another huge boost for Manchester’s entertainment scene.

All the big shows used to try out here on their way to London – Oklahoma!, West Side Story and many others had their European premieres on this very stage.

Under the new management of Ambassador Theatre Group, let’s hope Ghost heralds a return to those glory days.

Meanwhile, Ghost is no apparition – it’s the full five-star package and then some.

5/5 The Public Reviews

Source : The Public Reviews

In the 90’s we were treated to a heart-wrenching smash hit movie that proved that love could last forever if you only believed. That film has become a firm favourite for millions of fans across two generations and as the film has just reached its 21st birthday what better way to bring the story to life for a new generation than with a multi-million smash hit new musical.

Bruce Joel Rubin’s story followers two young lovers Sam and Molly as they move into their new apartment in Brooklyn, after a romantic meal Sam’s life is brought to a violent and abrupt end. With the help of a spiritualist guide Ode Mae, Sam sets out to find his killer and show Molly that death isn’t the end and that with love anything is possible.

From the first bar of haunting music, timed to perfection with an atmospheric projection, you know that the creative team have come together and created a piece of theatre that breaks the mould of what we have come to expect from a musical; not since Wicked touched the West-End nearly 5 years ago have we seen such a visual spectacle on British soil.

Stewart & Ballard’s music is wonderfully conceived, which helps bring this timeless story to new emotional heights, and provides many opportunities for leads Richard Fleeshman (Sam) and Caissie Levy (Molly) to shine – there is an excellent mix of musical styles from the almost cinematic underscoring, beautiful ballads, rousing rock numbers and vaudevillian pastiche there really is no musical stone unturned – but coming from the pens of two of pop musics greatest creators what would you expect?

Director Matthew Warchus has stayed tremendously faithful to the original source material, however he has brought it to life in such an exciting and fresh way that one can’t help but be blown away by its inventiveness, on a dazzling and brilliantly creative set by Rob Howell, stunning lighting design by Hugh Vanstone and pop concert style video projection by Jon Driscoll the pace never lets slip, but what really stands out strong our the illusions created by master illusionist Paul Kieve which really brings the show its wow factor…you really do need to see them in person to fully appreciate how good they really are.

Stunning performances are given across the board with Fleeshman giving us the performance of his life, here we have a male protagonist that we just connect to instantly and his chemistry with on stage partner Levy is electrifying. I was blown away by Levy’s powerhouse vocals and emotional connection to the material after seeing her in Hair on Broadway and it proves a wise move for the producers to bring her in to play the role of Molly. A role that placed in the wrong hands could end up being a little on the whiney and melancholic side, but with her slight touch, and beautifully nuanced performance she made this reviewer fall in love from the very first ‘Here & Now’. Excellent comic support comes from Sharon D Clarke who yet again proves she is one mighty performer with lungs that could break down walls, and whilst Andrew Langtree as backstabbing Carl Bruner may not vocally be as powerful as the aforementioned trio, he still gives the piece the Machiavellian touch that makes his character stand out.

Ghost the Musical has set a new standard for future musicals, proving that if you invest your time into creating something, you also need to give that piece of theatre the creative time and the talent to really make it shine.

I had tears in my eyes and joined in with the rapturous applause and standing ovation, which I believe this new piece of theatre truly deserves, I have a feeling that during awards season in 2012 there is going to be one name we hear constantly

Manchester Evening News

Source : Manchester Evening News

Good grief, whatever happened to Weatherfield’s resident pasty-faced Goth?

Coronation Street’s moody teen, Craig Harris, aka Richard Fleeshman, has morphed into a tanned, muscly beefcake.

And when he peels off his top for a steamy clinch with his co-star, Caissie Levy, the sight of his rippling torso causes something of a flutter among the ladies in the audience.

Despite the fact that all involved in this show, inspired by the hit 1990 film, stress that the aim for The Fleesh was to make the role of Sam his own, comparisons with dearly departed Patrick Swayze are inevitable.

At the tender age of 21, he is a bit young to make me swoon in the aisles but his acting skills, vocals (and his pecs) are  impressive.

An equally daunting match-the-movie challenge rests on the shoulders of Sharon D Clarke, stalwart of West End shows including Hairspray and Chicago in playing the role of Oda Mae Brown.

Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for her portrayal of the phoney psychic and you’d think it would be impossible to emulate her. But the actress, known to TV audiences for her role in Holby City and for being a judge on talent show Last Choir Standing, has risen to the challenge with gusto.

And she just about steals the show with her fabulously-frocked Oda.

Yet the ultimate scene-stealers are the amazing special effects – like Sam disappearing through a door. Illusion expert Paul Kieve, who worked on Harry Potter 3, helped create the jaw-dropping visuals which make this a true 21st century musical where technical wizardry vies with the cast and the score for top billing.

Go and see it while you can.

4/5 : Whats On Stage

Source : Whats On Stage

It is hoped that Ghost – the highly anticipated new musical based on Bruce Joel Rubin’s genre-busting film – will follow in the footsteps of West End hits Sister Act and Dirty Dancingand pack em’ in. In many respects the show is far superior to other screen-to-stage adaptations because of Dave Stewartand Glen Ballard’s original music and lyrics – not an oven-ready back catalogue tailor made for a pre-prepared narrative. All that’s missing from many of these shows are the fries to go, but they often lack heart.

Having Rubin on board means that director Matthew Warchus is loyal to the original and, at times, slavishly so. But there are some nice touches that set it apart. “Unchained Melody” is used as Sam and Molly’s song, far from an over-blown set piece, it is a homage and works wonderfully well. The plot also suits the musical genre and fits like a glove, exploring grief, deception, comedy and love conveyed as that one true thing you find with a soul mate.

Sam (played by the strong and stoic Richard Fleeshman) is murdered and whilst his girlfriend Molly (the ridiculously talented Caissie Levy) cries for her lost love, our hero seeks help from beyond the grave to find his killer. This may all sound very Murder She Wrote but with a trio of terrific performances from Fleeshman, Levy and Sharon D Clarke as fake Psychic Oda Mae Brown and a moving score, you buy into this high concept.

The show is not without it’s faults which will hopefully be ironed out before the forthcoming London transfer. Some scenes seem perfunctory, the potter’s wheel scene for example serves no purpose here, having driven the film narrative forwards.

Following Sam’s death, the audience should be heartbroken as this couple are so likeable, but instead we are given a vaudeville-style number; “Ball Of Wax” sung by ghosts. This takes away any emotion and the song itself is as disposable as the characters singing it.

On the plus side Levy is in great voice and can be tender one minute and as angry as Alanis Morrisette the next, however many of her songs fade into one as they are incredibly samey. “Suspend My Disbelief” and “Here Right Now” stand out though in her very capable hands.

Likewise, the ensemble and swings are all excellent but there is no interaction between them, Sam and Molly. This could be remedied by group dance scenes, as Fleeshman and Levy have both proved via Legally Blonde and Hair that they can move.

In terms of characterisation Andrew Langtree’s Carl is very panto villain and he sadly hasn’t got the chops for lead vocals, although he works well with an underwritten role. In contrast Clarke is a real crowd pleaser, avoiding impersonating Whoopi Goldberg she makes the role her own and brings much needed comedy. She needs more songs, as she can belt out a tune, and proves it with the wonderful (if too little too late) “I’m Outta Here”. Paul Kieve’s effects are impressive, although from the stalls you can see how many of them are achieved which does take you out of the show momentarily.

What Ghost has in spades is heart and Levy, Fleeshman and Clarke breathe life into the material and make it appear fresh. A few cuts and playing to cast member’s strengths should see the West End believing as much as Manchester, as this is a slick show which deserves to do well. The team behind it have created something which offers audiences far more than a lazy retread.

This Is Lancashire

Source : This Is Lancashire

IT’S been the most anticipated new musical of the year and now it’s here Ghost does not disappoint.

It’ll make you laugh out loud and cry real tears — the Bruce Joel Rubin story truly is a timeless fantasy.

The musical had a tough act to follow attempting to recreate the iconic 1990s blockbuster that was one of Patrick Swayze’s most-loved films.

But Ghost the musical is far superior to many film-to-stage adaptations. Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard’s original music and lyrics take the classic love story to new emotional heights.

Leads Richard Fleeshman (Sam) and Caissie Levy (Molly) are a natural and convincing couple and shine throughout with a strong score of solo and duet ballads. Fleeshman proves his Corrie days are well and truly behind him with a consistently brilliant performance, which no doubt prompted the emotional standing ovation of the night.

Another star is Sharon D. Clark, who portrays fake Psychic Oda Ma Brown with attitude and some much-needed comedy. She is a real crowd-pleaser and her upbeat songs are some of the best in the score. Director Matthew Warchus has stayed faithful to the original material, which fits the musical concept like a glove, but there are plenty of little tweaks to bring it up to date.

You can’t help but be blown away by its creativity; a dazzling set compete with video projection and a moving floor makes for an eye-catching backdrop, complemented by an energetic, allbeit slightly overused, chorus line. But what really gives this musical the wow factor are the magic tricks created by Harry Potter illusionist Paul Kieve.

Fleesham is seen walking through walls and doors, while objects appear to float in thin air and the scenes on the subway really have to be seen to be believed. But the best illusions are saved for the very end — although I won’t spoil the magic.

London will be green with envy that we had this award-worthy show first up here in the north.

The Daily Post

Source : The Daily Post

IT can be a precarious journey from screen to stage, especially for a film with an iconic status still fresh in the mind of many cinema-goers, but if there was any uncertainty with Ghost: The Musical it didn’t show and was dispelled within seconds of curtain up.

True, last night’s gala performance – with more soap stars in the audience than you could reasonably shake a stick at – was always going to receive universal approval and a standing ovation.  There was all-round applause when the title came up.

Yet, let’s nothing take away from this new stage show. It is superbly staged with outstanding visuals, a non-stop array of stunning special effects, excellent settings and a stage design which had last night’s – and will have its eventual West End – audiences wide-eyed. And there are some quite superb performances from a finely balanced cast.

Stars Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy are a magical pairing. They look the part, have great stage presence and voices just made for the new songs, written by former Eurythmics front man Dave Stewart and six-time Grammy Award winner Glen Ballard.

The stage play has been written by Bruce Joel Rubin who wrote the original film script and there is no hiding the fact that these collaborations, along with award-winning director Matthew Warchus at the helm, are the genius behind Ghost: The Musical.

Despite all that, last night was the performers’ night and they rose to the occasion. Former Corrie star Fleeshman visible grows into the part of Sam, whose murdered soul is trapped between worlds and Ms Levy, his wife Molly, haunted by her love and his spiritual presence, is both powerful and fragile and a sheer delight to watch.

Sharon Clarke is wonderful as the larger than life quack psychic drawn into the plot to help solve the murder. She is big, bold, brassy and threatens to steal the show with a tremendous performance.

There are other fine performances too all round the stage. Andrew Langtree’s Carl and Adebayo Bolaji’s subway ghost help frame this love story and murder mystery but this is a stage show with a compelling list of stars and attractions – a magical musical.

You have a month or so to catch it in Manchester and then it will be, one might suggest, a West End scrum for tickets later in the year.

4/5 : The Jewish Chronical

Source : The Jewish Chronical

I though I would hate it. I loved it.

The prospect of watching a musical version of a 21-year-old rom-com frankly left me cold. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was a totally enjoyable big-stage spectacular and, much like the rest of the audience, I came out buzzing.

The stage effects and illusions are breathtaking, the plotline is far-fetched but compelling, the comedy is laugh-out-loud funny and it all adds up to great entertainment.

This a seriously big show, with a compact cast but a huge list of production credits. And its sights are firmly set on the West End.

This is the dry run in Manchester, ironing out the wrinkles for seven weeks before transferring to the capital. Not that there were too many wrinkles from where I was sitting.

Director Matthew Warchus and his vast team have adapted the 1990 Hollywood hit with Manchester’s own Richard Fleeshman taking the late Patrick Swayze’s role as Sam. Jewish-Canadian actress Caissie Levy is girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore on screen). Together they manage to conjure up that elusive but necessary substance – chemistry.

Former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart provides the music, coming up with a perfectly pleasant score together with Glen Ballard, although none of the new numbers are anything like as memorable as the haunting Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers, which stood out in the film, and does again here.

But the show is much more than the sum of its parts. Its sheer scale is eyecatching, almost as impressive as the way nearly all parts of jigsaw fit together so neatly.

Sam, a Wall Street banker, is shot dead in an apparently random street robbery, but clings on as a ghost to protect his beloved Molly from danger. Bathed in a spectral blue light, he fights to be seen and heard.

The blend of film and theatre – with footage projected onto the back and on both sides of the stage – is cleverly used to bring the real and spirit world together. Fleeshman – or more likely the illusionist Paul Kieve, who provides the stage effects – wins applause when he walks through a door. And again for the stunning scene in which Fleeshman is thrown through a subway train.

I was struck by the change of tempo from the loved-up home-making opening scene, to the frenetic Wall Street buzz, the drama of the shooting and then – stroke of genius – the dead people’s cabaret as Sam reluctantly joins the hereafter. Just as memorable is the performance of Sharon D Clarke, who landed the role of bogus psychic Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in the film) and who grabbed it with both hands.”

Yes, but what about the potter’s wheel? The much-parodied scene, as the two lovers share an intimate moment over a rising mound of wet clay, is the most famous clip of the film. Here, inevitably, it was something of an anti-climax.

The British Theatre Guide

Source : The British Theatre Guide

One of the biggest-hyped shows to hit Manchester for many years is the new musical based on the 1990 hit Hollywood film Ghost, brought to the stage by the original screenplay writer Bruce Joel Rubin with leading rock and pop artists, writers and producers Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard.

This supernatural romance, originally starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze on screen, begins by building up an almost-perfect love affair between artist Molly Jensen and Sam Wheat who works in the world of high finance with their friend Carl Bruner. Just as they are settling into their new apartment in Brooklyn, the couple is accosted on the street by a mugger and Sam is killed, but he sticks around as a ghost. When he finds out that his death was no random event and that someone they know was involved, he is unable to warn Molly about the danger she is in until he comes across Oda Mae Brown, a fake medium who, to her own surprise, really can hear the voices of the dead.

The story is a classic Hollywood weepy that transfers well to the musical stage in the main, although the first half, when Sam dies, is curiously unemotional; the ending, however does have a few moments that are calculated to bring a lump to the throat. The songs aren’t particularly memorable, apart from the old classic Unchained Melody which was a famous part of the film and is incorporated very well into the score here. The music gives the piece atmosphere and energy in all the right places and there is plenty of variety of style. However the lyrics are often rather banal with no more depth than an average pop lyric and some very obvious rhymes you can see coming a mile off.

The stars pull off true star performances, with the superb Caissie Levy breathing real life into the role of Molly and a great performance from Richard Fleeshman as Sam, plus a great comic performance from Sharon D Clarke as Oda Mae Brown. There is a nicely-measured performance from Andrew Langtree as Carl, a superbly energetic and scary performance by Adebayo Bolaji as the subway ghost, a humorous performance from Mark Pearce as the hospital ghost and just the right amount of arrogant street swagger from Ivan de Freitas as mugger Willie Lopez.

The real star, though, is the production itself. Like when Tommy hit Broadway and the West End (not the much-depleted touring versions), Matthew Warchus’s production is a carefully-choreographed marriage of live performance and technology that utilises both as fundamental parts of the storytelling process rather than using the technology just to decorate the show. The main walls of the set suddenly reveal themselves to be semi-transparent LED video screens that can move and split and apply all sorts of film special effects behind or even over the top of the actors, all very cleverly synchronised with the actors’ moves, as well as providing realistic backdrops and more abstract pop video-style images for some of the songs and dance numbers.

This is combined cleverly with some more traditional stage magic from illusionist Paul Kieve, which is shown off at its best on the subway train as Matrix-style movement is synchronised with distortions in the train carriage on the video projections (designed by Jon Driscoll) and sound effects (sound designer Bobby Aitken) to great effect. There are some occasions when the lighting (lighting designer Hugh Vanstone) needs tweaking slightly so it doesn’t show up how the tricks are done, especially in the second subway scene, but this doesn’t spoil how the effects tell the story. There are some clever exchanges of actors and sometimes doubling of them, as a character is killed and then is seen both as a dead body and as an observing ghost at the same time.

So does it live up to all the hype? Well, it isn’t going to join the ranks of the all-time great musicals as far as the writing is concerned, but it does work well for the most part, tells a decent story, pushes some emotional buttons and has some good humour. As a production, it looks like a show that has had a lot of money spent on it, utilising sound, lighting and video technologies from the rock concert arena that are rarely used in theatre, at least not to this extent. Fortunately Warchus and his creative team have used the technology creatively to integrate it fully into the production and make it theatrical, resulting in a show that is visually stunning.

Add to this some very good performances and here is a show that has a good chance of running for a long time on the West End. Catch Ghost the Musical now in Manchester as, if Tommy is anything to go by, the show will be a shadow of its current state in any post-West End tours.

[ + ]