Going into the Grand Opera House I know I can be sure of two things to pop up in York Stage Musicals‘ production of Ghost: The Musical– renditions of The Righteous Brothers‘ Unchained Melody and the now famous pottery scene. You don’t even need to have seen the 1990 film to recognise the iconic scene at Demi Moore‘s pottery wheel. Usually aped for comic reference in umpteen sitcoms, there’s a contrasting tenderness and sincerity that comes with the inclusion of the potter’s wheel tonight, the same tenderness which is felt throughout this production.
There’s a brilliant chemistry to be found between Daniel Conway and Lauren Sheriston as Sam and Molly. Despite their limited stage time they give a sweet performance to reflect Sam and Molly’s delicate relationship, at turns displaying both its fragility and its strength. Sheriston’s vocals are a major strength in this production, with her range capable of captivating the audience during quieter scenes and belting out in larger chorus numbers.
The technical aspect of the production is another large asset which artistic director Nik Briggs does well to include. The use of projection is manifold, ranging from tender and tasteful love scenes to neon lights to an impressive subway train. The lighting cleverly helps to make the transition from life to death as mystical and supernatural a spectacle as the film does, shifting colour patterns based on purgatory, heaven and hell. There’s also an industrial amount of smoke machine action which creates a fantastically eerie atmosphere to contrast with the busy hubbub of New York. The simplest and most effective technique is achieved with extras to show the separation of spirit from corpse, which requires no suspension of disbelief to create a great theatrical illusion. It’s a shame that on a few smaller details some larger set pieces require a little more thought: I completely miss Sam walking through the door because of a large fridge prop in my line of vision.
I also would like a bit more choreography during musical numbers, although in the act one closer the mix of fast and slow tempo in movement comes together fantastically it doesn’t always gel with more upbeat musical numbers. The ensemble cast are entertaining nonetheless, with everybody getting a chance to shine. Joe Wawrzyniak gives a great turn as best friend turned slimy businessman Carl, but the inevitable show-stealer is Jessica Gardham as Oda Mae Brown. It’s to be expected from the part which won Whoopi Goldberg an Oscar, and Gardham’s performance is perfectly pitched. Her vocal skills and comic timing shine, placing her on a par with Goldberg, and it’s a delight to see her perform.
York Stage Musicals give a thoroughly enjoyable performance which is guaranteed to entertain Ghost fans of all ages. It might not be a musical for those who have no idea about the film, but for those who are acquainted it’s a really fun night out. 3/5.
Review written by Louise Jones.
Ghost: The Musical was shown at the Grand Opera House York from Tuesday 16th until Saturday 20th February. For more information on productions showing at the venue, visit here…