One of my favourite things about theatre is its ability to play host to an absolute multitude of stories, whether old or new, and to reinvent how they appear in such a live, raw format. This is the case with Ghost the Musical, adapted from the 1990 film of the same name. I couldn’t wait to see what the brilliant York Stage Musicals company had done with the show, under the direction of Nik Briggs and with musical direction and choreography from Stephen Hackshaw and Lesley Hill respectively.
Ghost the Musical brings us into the world of couple Molly (Lauren Sheriston) and Sam (Daniel Conway), who’ve just moved into an apartment together in New York. Sam’s a banker, and works with friend Carl Bruner (Joe Wawrzyniak) in a fast-paced world that never stops moving. Everything seems perfect for the couple. However, one night when they’re returning to their apartment, Sam is murdered, and his spirit becomes trapped between our world and the afterlife. It isn’t long before he uncovers the true motives of his old friend Carl, and enlists the help of psychic Oda Mae Brown (Jess Gardham) to warn his love of the dangers coming for her.
There’s a lot to like about this production, and York Stage Musicals have once again showcased their fantastic ability for breathing life into high-energy musicals. The vocal performances from all principal cast members are awesome, with lyrics being laced with clarity and emotion, adding to Ghost’s diverse melting pot of vibrant atmospheres. Music comes in at just the right moments to pinpoint significant changes in a character’s emotional state, as well as heightening the actions and stakes. A notable example is during Act Two, when Sam realises he has to focus all of his will and strength into making physical objects move with his new otherworldly powers – musical interludes from the Subway Ghost (Jonny Holbek) here add to the tension nicely.
Other musical numbers are also executed well, with Lesley Hill’s sharp choreography shining through in the dance routines. Energy and focus appeared consistently high throughout, and vocal performances from the ensemble, as well as the musicians in the orchestra pit below, were also on point here. Everything comes together neatly, and provides a springboard for the principal actors to execute Bruce Joel Rubin’s book and lyrics.
There’s also a lovely simplistic set design, with pieces of furniture being brought in to create different locations and a large LED board at the back of the space displaying fantastic visual animations, intermingles nicely with the production’s other aspects.
Characterisation on the whole was strong, with pleasant and enjoyable performances from Sheriston and Gardham. This was also the case with Conway and Wawrzyniak’s performances, although I don’t feel that their characterisations remained as strong throughout the production, and at times, I felt they could push them even more to add to the sense of desperation and excitement that bubbles underneath Ghost’s surface. One other minor niggle I have is with the accents here; again, generally strong, but sometimes not fully consistent throughout, with the occasional slip back into native English accents disrupting the conveyance of Ghost’s play-world to the audience. I know that many of the performers in this piece are young, and have recently finished or are still undergoing training, but accents are often a very important part of a play’s identity, especially if it’s set in a specific location or country.
Aside from those minor niggles, this production of Ghost the Musical is brilliant. With a stunning scenography and equally stunning performances, this is definitely a must-see.
Ghost the Musical is playing at the Grand Opera House York until 20 February. For more information and tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/shows/ghost-the-musical