Review: Ghost: The Musical
We all know ‘Ghost’: the classic 1990s film starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, a story about timeless love. And that’s exactly where it should stay. The musical was a commendable first attempt by director Katie Woods – but ultimately she was let down by a lacklustre script and the practical limitations of the theatre.
Another audience member likened the musical to when “you’re given a bad reading list and so you produce a bad essay.” The inherent problem of the musical seems to lie in the script itself. For although the actors sung wonderfully, many of the songs merged together in a monotonous drone of a heart-sick lover. Maryam Dorudi, playing Molly Jenson, struck some stunning notes that made the songs pleasing to the ear, but the talented singers were not always done justice by the songs. Of course there were some exceptions. The stand-out musical numbers include the beautifully jazzy “You Gotta Let Go Now” performed by Rory Russell as the Hospital Ghost. Nevertheless, these felt too far and few to really add a sense of variety.
The actors took some time to really get into their roles, inevitable in the initial stages of any production. Dialogue was often hindered by the characters talking over one another or speaking too fast. At some points there was the sense that the microphones themselves weren’t even loud enough. And then there’s the indispensable pottery scene, an iconic moment of romantic sensuality and sensual romance; for this reason, it has also been subject to ironic parody in popular culture. The musical did not achieve either of these portrayals – it took place at the far side of the stage, almost as if the production team were ashamed of what they had done. It actually felt rather uncomfortable, even voyeuristic, for the audience. The truly redeeming factor of the musical was the vocal prowess of all the actors.
The premise of any ghost story relies on the suspension of the audience’s disbelief. This was done rather well for the first death, when the “dead body” of Sam Wheat made a seamless appearance on stage, while his ghost watched from afar. However the next death, that of Willie Lopez, did not quite have the same success: his stunt-double corpse was heard, and seen, hitting the stage with a “THUD!” that provoked giggles from many audience members. At some point it becomes difficult not to see through the theatrical illusion.
Many other dramaturgical mishaps meant that the poignant moments could not be taken as seriously. There was a sense of under-preparation, with fight scenes failing to make their mark and actors having to shuffle into spotlights so they could be seen. One of the production’s major pitfalls were the never-ending transitions between scenes. The set itself was done well, oscillating between a domestic and an office setting, but the unpolished transitions detracted from the set’s effortless simplicity. There was a point where we were waiting for at least a minute for the scene to change – evidently the audience became restless and, whether or not people were immersed in the show, the long wait entirely pulled them out of it.
Intriguingly, the actress for Oda Mae – an iconic role played in the film by the equally iconic Whoopi Goldberg – used her script the entire time and had quite clearly not attended rehearsals. Sue Warren’s “American” accent could not exactly qualify as any nation’s accent. However, this exposes Cambridge’s wider problem of racial disparity. The fact that an such an iconic role could not be filled by a single black actress within Cambridge and the production team sought out an alternative (Warren is a non-student actress from Derby), for the sake of finding a black person simply willing to perform in the musical, truly shows the the lack of representation in the university, and by extension, the ADC. Although Warren did entertain us with her charismatic presence on stage, and did make a valiant attempt to match the standard of the other actors, this is besides the point. No musical should appear so damaged by this issue.
One can only hope that this musical will eventually make a more successful resurrection in future.