Tuesday, 28 February 2017

REVIEW: Ghost at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

The new touring production of Ghost: The Musical hit headlines when it was announced that Sarah Harding, of Girls Aloud fame, would be taking on the lead role of Molly, originally played by Demi Moore in the 1990 film. After an array of terrible reviews, Harding quickly departed the production to make way for Carolyn Maitland, a more well-practiced and reputable stage performer. Joining Maitland in Ghost is Hollyoaks alum Andy Moss as Sam, Jacqui Dubois as Oda Mae Brown and Sam Ferriday as Carl. 

“Walking back to their apartment late one night a tragic encounter sees Sam murdered and his beloved girlfriend Molly alone, in despair and utterly lost. But with the help of a phony storefront psychic Sam, trapped between this world and the next, tries to communicate with Molly in the hope of saving her from grave danger…”

Maitland and Moss, as Molly and Sam respectively, have great chemistry and do their best with the material on offer, but Moss was battling to be heard due to appalling mic balancing. Maitland’s solos were the highlights of this show, by far - “With You” was stunning, but sadly Bruce Joel Rubin, Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard’s book, music and lyrics leave much to be desired. This poignant story has been turned into a gimmicky pop-music mish-mash and never elevates you to where the 1990 film took audiences worldwide. 

At the heart of every show must be a good score. Ghost is not only lacking in this, but made worse by repetitive lyrics of a tedious nature, choreography which hit sour notes in its own way and poor sound balance which hung emotional scenes out to dry and crust.

Act II is significantly stronger than Act I (though that's not exactly a testament to its overall quality), with Jacqui Dubois really coming into her own for moments of wonderful comedy as Oda Mae Brown. Sassy, witty and downright hilarious. Oda Mae was the only character written in this musical which really did justice to the original creation so wonderfully popularised by Whoopi Goldberg. 

The lighting had rare moments of beauty but was generally quite tacky and garish – not tasteful like one may hope for to accompany a story with this much heart. It was sadly a regular occurrence throughout the night that the follow-spot was not properly lighting the actors and so they were left singing in the dark. An inexcusable sin in any production. 

The sound was generally poor. Some performers, namely Moss, could barely be
heard in some of their songs. The balancing was poor – sound effects used when Sam is supposedly walking through a wooden door were far too loud and made it seem like a joke, when actually this discovery is pivotal to the story. 

The set, however, was great – seamless transitions from scene to scene and excellent use of space, particularly in height. The only mishap (and unfortunately quite a major one) was overuse of the smoke machine in the concluding scene which saw the front five rows of the stalls flapping infront of their faces, coughing and gasping for clean air. This ruined the slow-burning emotional atmosphere in the auditorium as people started laughing. A mishap which could easily have been avoided. 

Maitland is a diamond in this rough production. Sam may be Molly’s saving grace in this story, but Maitland was mine in this otherwise droll musical. Unfortunately, all things considered, Ghost is unsaveable, regardless of casting.

Tragically unemotional and unrefined.

Review by Harriet Langdown 

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