There’s nothing quite as satisfying as watching an evil protagonist get slowly sucked into the ether amid a mass of twinkling red lights, safe in the knowledge that they are going to spend THE REST OF ETERNITY IN HELL.
Sitting in the audience of the Melbourne premiere of Ghost The Musical at the Regent Theatre on Saturday night I began to really understand why Ghost the movie reached such cult classic status.
At the beginning of Ghost we fall in love with the intense young love between Sam and Molly. Sam is violently murdered – a casualty of his best friend’s illegal financial trading deals – leaving Molly in great danger. Sam must learn to overcome the limitations of his ethereal form to protect the life of his greatest love and seek vengeance for his own death.
All of this seriousness is tempered by the larger-than-life hilarity that is Oda Mae Brown (played by Whoopi Goldberg in the movie), psychic medium and, for most of the story, the only mode of communication between Sam and Molly.
The love and the comedy and the heart-string-pulling and the suspense is all very well, but it’s the moral satisfaction that makes the story of Ghost truly satisfying.
It’s so wonderfully black and white – the good people get ultimate resolutions and go to heaven. The bad people are unequivocally irredeemable and get sucked into the seven fires of hell.
Does Ghost The Musical do justice to the movie?
I’m going to go out on a limb here: Ghost The Musical is better than the movie.
Why? Because a movie can have special effects galore, fabulous acting, great comedic timing and the ability to watch it over and over again.
But nothing-but-nothing will tweak your tear ducts quite like the waves of emotion generated by music.
Light music to move the story along, angry music that claws at your guts, funny music that provides some relief and exquisitely beautiful music to lift you out of your mundane existence.
The score of Ghost The Musical is brilliant – modern, emotive, fun – and expertly rendered by an incredibly talented cast.
Saturday night’s premiere performance ended with the entire audience on our feet, whooping and applauding. The standing ovation was duly earned.
Every performer – not just the leads – was polished, talented and full of energy. The choreography was modern, fresh, relevant to the story line and expertly executed. The singing was incredible – this is not a show where the performers have been cast for celebrity, acting or dance abilities alone – and the electricity between the characters was tangible.
Here are a few standouts.
Jemma Rix’s (Molly Jensen) incredible voice
Simply put, Jemma Rix’s vocal range is simply stunning.
Her soft, upper notes were like listening to bolts of pure silk rounded out with a perfectly controlled vibrato. Her grief-enraged raw notes were deep, powerful and gut-wrenching. I wanted to get up on stage and punch a wall right alongside her.
Rob Mills’ (Sam Wheat) superb acting
We all know that Rob Mills has an incredible voice, but the real standout was his characterisation of Sam’s emotional journey – through love, death, fear, anger and revenge – and his connection with other actors.
From warm love and light joking with Molly, to his hilarious antics of persuasion with psychic Oda Mae Brown (played by Wendy Mae Brown), to the way he toys with, fights and ultimately defeats his former best friend, Carl Bruner (Alex Rathgeber), Rob Mills is not just a star of the show. He’s an integral part of a tightly woven story, gathering the threads expertly around him.
Wendy Mae Brown’s (Oda Mae Brown) comedic timing
Step aside, Whoopi Goldberg, Wendy Mae Brown is the new psychic in town. What a voice, what a face, what an amazing sense of comedic timing!
Wendy Mae Brown and her talented support ladies – Evette Marie White (Clara) and Lydia Warr (Louise) bring colour, life and laughs to a show that, without them, would be simply a sad and angry tale of death and betrayal.
The special effects
Wondering how they manage to do the subway scenes on stage? Or make objects fly around the room? Or allow ghosts to walk through doors? Yes, me too, and I’ve seen the performance!
The use of special effects is impressive – technology doesn’t overwhelm the performance, but it does aid in the suspension of disbelief.
You will literally watch people ascend to heaven in Ghost The Musical. Try not to spend too much time trying to figure out how they do it.
Just enjoy the magic.
Ghost the Musical is playing at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne now. Book through Ticketmaster.
Check the website for Australian tour dates.
Disclosure: I attended Ghost the Musical as a guest. I was not paid to write this article. All words and opinions are my own.