Adapting beloved films into stage musicals is a time-honoured tradition. One that needs to die, if Ghost The Musical at the New Alexandra Theatre is any indication.
For anyone unfamiliar with the story, here are the broad strokes; Sam and Molly are a pretty-but-bland young couple who have just moved in together. Sam is an investment banker who refuses to tell his doting girlfriend that he loves her and has just bought a Brooklyn loft, contributing to the social blight that is gentrification, but for some reason he is not the villain of this piece, but the hero.
Anyway, one night while walking home from a gallery opening (gentrification!), Molly and Sam are set upon by a mugger, and Sam is shot dead. Rather than moving on to the spirit world like everybody else, Sam finds himself stranded on earth as a ghost, unable to communicate with anybody except a sassy, fraudulent fortune teller.
There’s also some intrigue regarding financial chicanery and a murder plot, but really, by the time the curtain falls you’ll be too busy sprinting for the exit to care.
While the production dazzles with a gorgeous score and smart, swift-changing scenes, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Ghost‘s two leads are also its weakest links. As Molly, former Girls Aloud member Sarah Harding struggles to make any impression at all vocally without the help of autotune and four bandmates, and seems to simply be trying to remember her next line even during the play’s most emotional scenes. Andy Moss fares slightly better in the role of Sam, but is ultimately let down by an unpredictable American accent and a complete lack of chemistry with his love interest.
It also doesn’t help that the iconic pottery scene from the film, the one remembered fondly for its romance and passion, is almost entirely skipped on stage, with the Righteous Brothers’ ‘Unchained Melody’ popping up all-too-briefly in the soundtrack.
The show’s saving grace is Jacqui Dubois, who brings irrepressible verve and a great set of lungs to the character of Oda Mae (played so memorably by Whoopi Goldberg in the 1990 film). Dubois steals every scene she’s in, although it might be more accurate to say her co-stars hand them over without a fight. Her two big musical numbers, ‘You Gotta Let Go Now’ and ‘I’m Outta Here’, are the closest thing to showstoppers in the entire production.
Honourable mentions must also go to Tarisha Rommick and Simbi Akande, who play Oda’s sisters, Louise and Clara. The ghostly ensemble is rounded out with charisma by James Earl Adair, who explains Sam’s new situation in a charming expository ditty, and Garry Lee Netley, who is wonderfully weird as the spectre on the subway. Perhaps if the casting had focused more on theatrical training and talent over TV appearances, this Ghost would have had a little more life in it.