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Andy Moss and Sarah Harding in Ghost – The Musical (© Matt Martin)

Review: Ghost – The Musical

“The sceptic in me died”; Sam Bennett attends the Bill Kenwright production that is Ghost – The Musical at Oxford’s New Theatre
"This was a new sensation for me – and it rather spooked me."

On 1st November a sparse audience sat in Oxford’s New Theatre for Ghost – The Musical.

This small gathering no doubt consisted of individuals slightly miffed that they weren’t about to see Sarah Harding and Andy Moss on stage, the two big names in the current UK tour of the show.

Harding losing her voice has so far meant no appearance from her in Oxford, the part of Molly Jenson being played by Kelly Hampson instead. Sam Wheat, usually played by Moss, was portrayed by Sam Ferriday. Hampson and Ferriday have something of a challenge on their hands here, not being who certain audience members want them to be and having to play to a significant amount of empty seats. They do deliver though; Hampson conveys the innocence of Molly, and Ferriday the cheekiness and tenacity of the male protagonist first portrayed by Patrick Swayze in 1990.

As an experienced cynic, I initially struggled to feel for Sam and Molly, but as the evening progressed I found myself charmed by their love. As I saw more and more of them, and as Sam persevered from beyond the grave in his efforts to save Molly, the sceptic in me died somewhat and I wanted peace and happiness for both of them. This was a new sensation for me – and appropriately left me rather spooked.

Neither Hampson nor Ferriday provide the standout performance though – step forward Jacqui Dubois as Oda Mae Brown, the part made famous by Whoopi Goldberg almost 30 years ago. Dubois lifts the energy of the show to a whole different level with a superb comic performance, meaning, so often, no matter what is happening on the stage, it is her that you watch.

The set design, lighting, and sound of this Bill Kenwright production convey effectively all the supernatural happenings of Ghost that, if done wrong, would look tragic. Well-planned and well-rehearsed, the show achieves the illusion the story would be non-existent without.

One weakness of this offering is the music. Willy Russell once wrote of someone who told him that to write a musical your songs have to be hummable. To me Ghost is not. With the exception of ‘Unchained Melody’ and ‘With You’ there are no songs that I remember, however well they were sang on the night.

Despite this, and the fact the musical numbers are accompanied by fairly uninspiring choreography, this is a much loved story not lost in its transfer to the world of musical theatre. It is possibly over reliant on the character of Oda Mae Brown and lacks catchy tunes; but it’s tight, it’s slick, it’s funny – and if it really is Sarah Harding you need in order to go, I’ve just seen on Twitter her voice has returned.

- Sam Bennett

 

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