Review: Ghost the Musical @ Palace Theatre, Manchester

As an avid fan of the 1990 Academy Award-winning film starring Demi Moore and the late Patrick Swayze, the bar of expectation was set pretty high for Ghost the Musical at the Palace Theatre, Manchester.

My initial impression of the opening scenes was of rather awkward and wooden performances. With over-the-top Americanisms and references to ‘Kung Po Chicken’ that my heart.

When the three main characters, Molly, Sam and Carl posed for a selfie, I inwardly cringed and worried what the next couple of hours would bring.

Having watched the film, which grossed $505.7 million worldwide, several times over, perhaps my expectations were unreasonably high.

The performance was going to be a modern take on the fantasy love thriller and I was initially concerned the stage adaption was going to be unrecognisable. However, I needn’t have worried with the storyline remaining true to the original.

Jacqui DuBois replaced Whoopi Goldberg as the (initially questionable) psychic Oda Mae Brown. Goldberg won several awards as the Best Supporting Actress in the movie, so anyone playing her has a lot to live up to, but she absolutely nailed it.

Despite the tragic storyline she entertained and uplifted the audience, having them in stitches time and time again and her performance was the highlight for many.

Dealing with the devastating loss of her partner Sam, (played by Niall Sheehy) Molly’s role involved several heart-rending solos. Her beautiful voice made the hair on the back of your neck stand up and portrayed her grief through her voice exceptionally well.

Despite the obvious difficulties involved in recreating the special effects of which the original film was highly acclaimed for, they were conveyed well with outstanding audio work and even at the back the sound was exceptional.

Music for the show was co-written by Dave Stewart, better known for his career with Eurythmics and six-time Grammy Award winner Glen Ballard. Whilst I wasn’t blown away by the overall soundtrack the hit song Unchained Melody proved to be popular and had many fans joining in.

The choreography by Alistair David of the backing dancers delivered an essential element to the show, bringing the city and office scenes to life that worked with the simple yet effective set design.

New York streets were interchangeable with Sam and Molly’s beautiful city apartment and, in spite of the performance stopping for a few moments for a real-life medical emergency, the scenes flowed seamlessly into one another.

Iconic moments were performed with a modern twist, which didn’t quite do the legendary pottery scene justice. The scene involved the addition of a toned and topless Niall Sheehy playing the guitar – that admittedly did soften the blow somewhat for the largely female audience.

Whilst I wasn’t totally convinced by the depth of feeling between Sam and Molly, the performance delivered a perfect blend of drama, comedy, romance and music before it culminated with a climatic crescendo leaving members of the audience in tears and the cast with a standing ovation.

*Ghost the Musical is showing at Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday, April 20. You can buy tickets HERE.

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