It’s been a while since I posted anything, and although blaming Christmas madness is usually a safe thing to do, I somehow don’t believe it’s actually true in this case. But that’s a different story to which I’ll come back later this year.
If you’re coming from the homepage you may have noticed that fantastic photo I used as post cover (not mine this time, I’m afraid). That is because I finally, and there’s no shame in saying it, went to watch Ghost — the one and only chick flick musical.
If this is the very first time you’ve ever heard of it, here is the official trailer. Also living in a cave is sooo 4000 BCE…
Anyway, based on the Hollywood classic starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Tony Goldwyn and Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost is at least recognisable, if not well known, by anyone from my and older generation (does it sound like I’m 60?). As far as I remember it was even nominated for an Academy Award back then. Plus I don’t think there’s anyone out there who hasn’t heard of Unchained Melody by Righteous Brothers and if so, shame on you!
Do I like chick flicks? Some. I like to think of myself as male most of the time, so I have a certain limit of them to watch in a row (musicals, not males) without a headache or a suicidal mood. What I do like a lot though are musicals, and that’s why I really wanted to see what makes Ghost so popular…
I was pleasantly surprised with the crowds queuing in front of the theatre. I know that West End has always been occupied by masses, but it’s a nice reminder of London being nicer than all that douchebaggery I see on a train every day and, more and more often, even at Royal Opera House (!).
Piccadilly Theatre is your average, small-staged venue — nothing breathtaking but comfy enough, with a lot of legroom. The staff was very helpful and actually cared which is less and less common in theatres nowadays. But let’s not go off the topic here…
Do not worry, I’m not going to go through every single scene and spoil it for you; instead let me just point out few things that I liked a lot and few that, well… I liked a bit less.
There are 4 roles worth mentioning: Sam and Molly, Carl and Oda Mae Brown. Although completely different they were perfectly composed and felt nicely balanced throughout the whole play.
Sam (the dead dude) is played by Richard Fleeshman — a young British singer-songwriter, whom West End goers may recognised from Legally Blonde, where he starred as Warner. I don’t think he’s a trained musical singer (or at least it didn’t show), but I found his overall performance very, very good. In fact I usually judge art by the amount of goose bumps I receive from it, and there were at least 2 or 3 high scores for Mr Richard here — especially at the end of act I, but I leave the discovery of it to you.
Sam’s girlfriend — Molly — is portrayed by Caissie Levy. Being a part of productions like Hair, Wicked, Hairspray or Rent, I’d really like to call her a stage veteran but, hell, she’s younger than me and also one undeniably attractive woman, so it’s probably not the best idea(; I really liked her singing and stage presence — the transformation from cute and flirtatious to sad and melancholic was exactly what I hoped for and 100% believable. I’d say that her voice is rather gentle, perhaps lacking some vibrato juice at times, but it suited the role very well, and I can’t say a single negative word about it.
Also, you what I just realised? Cassie is clearly a long missing younger sister of Lara Fabian! Hot, talented, emotional, curly blond hair.
OK, OK, calm down now…
Carl — the evil muppet — is Andrew Langtree — another 30something singing actor whom you may have seen in Blood Brothers, Mamma Mia, Fame and few TV productions. Although his role was rather small, I found his voice surprisingly mature and of interesting tone. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t pitch-perfect but I’d still like to see him more on stage. Especially considering his damn evil, plotting-behind-your-backs looks(;
Sharon D. Clarke took care of Oda Mae Brown — a con-artist psychic, who plays a crucial, ‘glue’ role in the whole story. Say whatever you want, but I strongly believe she could single-handedly run a musical and it would be a guaranteed hit. She had the most powerful and ranged voice of all cast members, she completely owned the stage at all times, and made me laugh stupid. I’ll risk saying that if not for her, this whole production would not be as successful as it is, so even if you don’t like chick-flicks, she’s a good enough reason to go and watch it.
Finally there’s the rest of the Ensemble. The guys were sharp, the girls were smoking hot (I was constantly distracted by Emily Hawgood, Louise Lawson, Laura Selwood, Philippa Stefani and the rest of them, which I can’t name!
Damn you sexy women!) — everything was perfectly synchronised and dynamic. The chorus voices were not offending my ears, as they sometimes do; in fact they were nicely supporting lead vocals.
It would be also a shame not to mention a short yet powerful performance of Adebayo Bolaji — although more rapping than singing I found it very refreshing and a nice change to the whole musical theme.
I won’t say Ghost has the best voices I have ever heard. They’re good, even very good at times, but not coming even close to e.g. Les Misérables, especially that short run they recently had with magnificent Alfie Boe. But, and it’s a big one, what it has that many other productions lack, is a superb, radiating young spirit. It made me completely forgot I’m wearing a blazer and sitting in a theatre.
Dancers on the other hand were brilliant and probably one of the best I’ve seen in years, so big high fives to them. Nothing else needs to be said here.
On top of it, many pieces of the story are very universal and current, and I strongly believe that whoever can relate to her/his job personally, she/he’ll do it way, way better. At least that’s how I roll.
The Stage, Lighting and Sound Design:
That is a completely different story. By far Ghost is the most amazing production I have ever seen. Visually that is. Badass 3D and 2D stage projections, mirror illusions (yes — there was an illusionist involved!), smoke effects, dynamic lighting… almost everything was in a constant move. They even had a slo-mo Matrix-like scene! Mindblowing! Though if I may suggest something, I would probably reduce the amount of blinding reflectors pointed at spectators, which was crazy annoying at times.
Choreography was fantastic — modern, simple yet with plenty of electrifying routines and fresh moves. It worked amazingly well with a conveyer-belt-like floor and shifting walls, and I couldn’t notice a single flaw during the whole performance. What also helped was the fact that every single person on the stage was dressed in clothes every one of us would wear on a daily basis — either casual or classy — which, again, added to the contemporariness (is that even a word?).
Plus we don’t need no bloody French Revolutionists on the streets.
The only thing that went horribly wrong was acoustics of the theatre and the matching sound design. I’ve been to many productions in my life but what Bobby Aitken and his team achieved here is exactly the opposite of what you’d expect in a venue like this. For some reason the volume was way too high (oversteered?) resulting in completely distorted, crackling sound especially in more intense moments. The last time I heard something like this was at Il Divos concert in O2 Arena and would never imagine experiencing anything like this ever again, especially in a theatre. Shame, because at 20dB lower it would be just perfect.
Perhaps it’s not as epic as Phantom but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it. There are few songs that will definitely end up in the musical hall of fame, so deep respect are in order for Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard. They may have just proved that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cole Porter are not the only successful composers out there. And good for them.
The material range was rather impressive — from haunting ballads, through funky, disco rhythms, even with elements of rap and gospel — but, and this is very important, not for a single second it felt wrong or misused. And you know what? I think it’s one of the best cooperations between the singers and song-writers I have ever experienced — the cast was perfectly matched with the music and story (or vice versa) and it probably is one of the main reasons why the whole thing is so enjoyable. Well done!
Summing up, it was a memorable experience. It had its flaws as well as moments of glory but I think it’s a worthy contender on the musical scene nowadays. I really hope it succeeds on Broadway in March as it did here, though it’s a shame UK is losing the original cast because of it.
If, after reading all that, you’re still interested in experiencing Ghost for yourself, I strongly recommend watching the official behind-the-scenes video showing some sexy FX and snippets of soundtrack recording.
To finish on a high note I’d like to quote Bruce Joel Rubin — a writer of original Ghost movie, also deeply involved in the musical version itself:
In film, you have close-ups, and that’s one of the ways you take the audience on the characters’ inner journeys. With a musical, you don’t have close-ups: the songs are your close-ups, the songs are what draw you into the heart of this story(…) There’s something about seeing the story onstage in contrast to film: the emotions are surprisingly heightened. A musical is so immediate, so gripping: you can’t avoid the power of what is unfolding before you; it’s such a love-of-life energy. It’s astounding how well it works.
Finally, if you ask me whether I’d recommend it to my friends, I’d say hell yeah! Everyone should watch it at least once.
Would I watch it again? Sure, but only if they lower the volume. Or if any of the ensemble girls was
relatively single and would join me for a drink after work(;
Peace and Bacon.