It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to adapt the smash-hit you wrote for the silver screen to the stage. However, American screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin’s reworking of his Academy Award winning film Ghost nearly pulls it off.
Having never seen the original film, the opening night soiree at Crown Theatre quickly threw me into the world of Sam Wheat (played by Rob Mills) and his long-time girlfriend Molly Jensen (Jemma Rix). The story follows Sam after his murder in a mugging gone awry. Now a (you guessed it) ghost, caught somewhere between this world and the next, we follow his desperate attempts to communicate with Molly through the sassy medium Oda Mae Brown (Wendy Mae Brown). Using predominantly pop tunes, Ghost tries to tie a cheesy romantic comedy together with an edge-of-your-seat crime thriller.
Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard served up music and lyrics that would have felt right at home on a ‘Best of the 80s’ soundtrack. Their sappy ballads framed Sam and Molly’s tragic love affair but, to my disappointment, failed to play on the story’s supernatural themes.
Rix produced a stand out performance, a highlight of which was her rendition of “I Can’t Breathe”. The tune captures Molly’s raw emotion following Sam’s death, and left me with goose-bumps as her dazzling soprano carried the audience through a world of tragedy and loss. By contrast, Mills’ Ken Doll good looks didn’t make up for his mostly disappointing performance. His delivery of “I Had A Life” was unconvincing and emotionless, and only underscored the song’s corny lyrics. Wendy Mae Brown was a breath of fresh air in the primary supporting role, and her beautiful, gospel-styled vocals and exceptional comedic timing brought some much-needed pizzazz to the boards.
The show was transformed from a simple stage musical to an extravagant, multi-media production through the use of large projection screens, video montages and sneaky visual effects. It became part magic show; captivating the audience as Mills seemingly walked through solid doors, floated up and out of his body, and turned transparent. The ‘wow factor’ peaked with the use of projected train footage that bounced off the stage props, producing a hyper-realistic recreation of a New York subway car.
All in all, this musical is simple and accessible, with the music and storyline wholly supported by the show’s elaborate production. If you are going to bring a film which sits so fondly in the collective memory of the masses to the stage, then this is a very safe way of doing it.
Words by Nicholas Monisse
Ghost the Musical runs at Crown Theatre Perth from 21 May to 12 June. Tickets available here.