Review: Ghost The Musical

Beautiful, tragic and thoroughly engrossing, Ghost The Musical is an edgy and moody show with a lot of heart. With the Melbourne theatre scene usually jam-packed with only the ‘tried-and-tested’ blockbuster musicals that have been playing on Broadway for years, it is a rare privilege for producers to bring a show that could be considered a riskier choice to Australian shores. Beginning its run in Adelaide, the 2016 Australian Tour of Ghost The Musical brings Australian music theatre superstars Rob Mills (Wicked, Legally Blonde, Grease) and Jemma Rix (Wicked) back to the stage.

Rob Mills, much like the title of his recent cabaret, is “surprisingly good” in his portrayal of Sam Wheat, powerfully carrying the show. His voice perfectly suited for the rocking songs in the score, Rob soars through the music whilst conveying the angst, compassion and desperation that enchants the audience.

One of the most vocally talented women in Australian music theatre, Jemma Rix’s powerhouse voice is a delight to listen to. Playing the heartbroken and confused Molly Jensen, Rix, though perhaps not playing the role with the same soft innocence as Demi Moore’s character in the movie, delivers a captivating and effortless performance.

Jemma Rix and Company performing “Rain”

Coming directly from the West End production of this show, playing Oda Mae Brown, a storefront psychic, Wendy Mae Brown brings the much needed comedic relief to the story. Brown stands out and steals the spotlight with her highly commendable performance.

Wendy Mae Brown performing “I’m Outta Here”

The set and lighting design for the show, were both beautiful and perceptively minimal, integrating seamlessly with the projections and LED screens to create some of the illusions. The technical elements of the show were particularly impressive in the train sequence, where the entire stage was transformed into a moving carriage that a time-manipulating Subway Ghost dwelled in. There were a number of other practical effects in the show, some better executed than others. I found more often than not that the simpler effects were most powerful.

The music was mellifluous, having strong rock qualities, but maintaining a storytelling element. With music by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard who both have strong backgrounds in the pop music industry, the songs were distinctly non-traditional to the musical theatre genre. As such, the piece seemed more like a movie on stage than a musical, and as a result, more accessible to an audience that doesn’t often see musical theatre.

The choreography, however, was distracting and ill-fitting with the rest of the show at the best of times. There’s also not much that can be said for the smaller ensemble roles, though whether that’s the writing or the execution is debatable. The white to black gradiated costume theme for the rest of the ghosts was an obvious choice, and the white haired wigs they all wore looked like they came straight from the ancestors in The Addams Family.

(LTR:) Jemma Rix, Rob Mills and Alex Rathgeber

The directorial vision for the show was clear and wonderfully moody in its journey, though perhaps sometimes anachronistic in its storytelling. Claiming to bring the story to the modern day, elements of the 25 year old plot didn’t fit and are no longer relevant. The streets of New York are no longer as dangerous as they were in the 80s, the Stock Market crash is no longer fresh, and “young people” don’t listen to the radio. A dramaturgical approach may have been considered to bring more cohesiveness to what was an engaging vision.

Despite some of the odd choices made in the show, Ghost The Musical brings a beautiful story to the stage. With outstanding performances and stunning live effects, Ghost provides an enjoyable evening at the theatre and is an accessible choice to those who would not usually do so.

3.5 stars

The Ambassador Theatre Group’s 2016 Australian Tour of Ghost The Musical runs from Sat 6 Feb — Sun 13 March at the Regent Theatre, Melbourne.

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