Monday, 22 April 2013

Ghost the Musical on Tour - Wales Millennium Centre - Saturday 20th April 7.30pm

The great thing about touring shows is I can share the shows I love with my family who aren't theatre obsessed like me. After discovering Ghost last year, I've been raving about it ever since. It's an exciting new level of theatre and I was anxious for everyone to see it. I wanted them to see the same show I loved, though, and tours are often radically scaled down versions of it's initial incarnation.

This worry was unfounded, however. The set has been kept almost to the exact specifications of the original. The one thing I really noticed that was missing was the 'travelator' as it became known - the conveyor belt that runs across the downstage area. I missed it, but if you've never seen the London version you wouldn't know any different. The special effects and illusions are still breathtaking and flawless - my mum hasn't stopped talking about the door scene and the effect of the subway. She said "it's the best special effects she's ever seen in a show".

I won't go into my set design interpretation here - see my original review for that, but I do want to reiterate my defence for it to anyone that accuses it of being technology for technology's sake - think about the themes and subplots before making these accusations! 

There are a couple of changes to the score and I don't think anyone will be surprised or disappointed to learn one of these is 'Ball of Wax' which was always glaringly out of place with its awkward change of tone. I still don't feel they've got this moment right with the reworked version of this song still feeling like a poor fit. The other song which has been removed is Carl's song from Act 2 'Life Turns on a Dime'. I actually liked this song, though I know lots of people didn't. In its place, Carl now sings a (somewhat distorted sounding) version of 'Here Right Now' while Molly sings her normal phrase. Maybe it's just because I know how it used to sound, but again it feels awkward. It's good that they've listened to the audience opinions and responded proactively by changing things - this is how theatre develops and grows - but it feels a little rushed. It's as though they've responded with panic to fill these moments by taking musical phrases from elsewhere in the show and remoulding them into something that hasn't properly taken shape.

Honestly, though, that's nitpicking to the nth degree because I can't actually fault it otherwise. As far as touring versions go, this is perfect. To quote my friend, Julie, who watched with me - "I've never seen anything quite like it. It reminds me why I got into the theatre business". I don't think there is higher praise than that; For someone to be inspired by what they've encountered is the greatest compliment.

Stewart Clarke as Sam brings a younger, innocently playful take to the character - a young man just embarking on his adult life. His career and relationship with Molly are strong and his future looks bright. This heightens the injustice of his life cut short.

Rebecca Trehearn was the understudy for Molly during the London run, so was already familiar with the character. Her interpretation was a feistier one but this didn't diminish the vulnerability - if anything it enhances it. Her 'With You' was heartbreaking.

I found it quite hard to fully buy into David Roberts's Carl - although people accused Andrew Langtree's interpretation to be a bit too "panto baddie", I liked it, it worked for me. I felt Roberts was a little lacking in the dripping corporate sleaze that's needed to create the believability that he would risk everything for his personal, materialistic gain.

And then there's Wendy Mae Brown as Oda Mae Brown. What a fabulous role this must be to play and with that name, it seems she was born to play her. She's the light relief in what would otherwise be a dark and heavy show, it's easy to warm to her character. Certainly no saint herself, Oda Mae can con and swindle with the best of the New Yorkers - but underneath it all it hasn't corrupted her soul. I loved Wendy's interpretation, dare I say, more than Sharon D. Clarkes! She’s put more of her own spin on the character rather than being a carbon copy of Whoopi Goldberg's. It was impossible not to laugh out loud.

From the moment the intensity of the overture hits you and you're hurtled across the New York skyline to the lights dimming into a small pool of light downstage on a drained Molly and Oda Mae, you will feel completely blown away! If there's only one touring production you see this year, make it this one. Please.

For tour venues, dates and booking information, please visit the official website

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