Ghost the Musical review: Afterlife love story is dead on arrival

Hell is surely enduring yet another lifeless stage musical knockoff of a hit film

What happens when the world has finished with you, but you haven't finished with it? In the case of Ghost's protagonist, a recently deceased New York financial type who is bewildered to have met a violent end, he sticks around in the hope of making things right.

A similar fate has greeted Jerry Zucker’s popcorn flick, a 1990 time capsule that hit upon an untapped eroticism of pottery wheels and was, perhaps, the last time mainstream audiences were asked to sympathise with a yuppie investment banker.

It would take a die-hard Patrick Swayze fan to argue for its classic status, but after Dirty Dancing crossed over, the rattling chains of Ghost's memory were enough to author a stage musical. Even the famous face retained to help sell this production might empathise, as former Girls Aloud member Sarah Harding explores the afterlife of a pop music career.

You may not be surprised to hear that the results are so lifeless.


The musical version is haunted by obvious spectres, here weakly summoned. An electric pottery wheel is dutifully rolled on and off, while the Righteous Brothers Unchained Melody plays briefly over some tepid kneading. That the leads, Harding's muted Molly and Andy Moss's chipper Sam, display little chemistry is partly down to her hesitancy as a live performer and singer. (Harding's first experience with stage musicals has recently been interrupted by ill-health.)

Where’s the whoomf?

Bruce Joel Rubin's own adaptation of his screenplay makes no creative leap to the stage. You feel that lack keenly when we first meet the charlatan psychic Oda Mae, in an otherwise assured comic performance by Jacqui Dubois, where the spirited gospel hucksterism of Are You a Believer? really deserves the whoomf of an ensemble number. (Marshalling a crowd from a Noo Yawk gallery of office workers, joggers and cops seems to strain the modest imagination of director Bob Tomson. )

Sam’s catchphrase, in place of saying “I love you”, is “Ditto”, which sums up the imitative and passionless urges of the stage version. Needlessly slavish to the film’s dialogue, it also stumbles through cut-price replicas of its spectral effects. Poor Moss is forced to swing his fists past bodies as though passing through them, and lumbering set-pieces conceal stagehands dragging away damned souls by their ankles.

Of its remarkably insipid songs, doodles in the margins of a thin narrative, one in particular seems to beg for clemency: Suspend My Disbelief. Not a ghost of a chance.

Runs until November 12th

Peter Crawley

Peter Crawley

Peter Crawley, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about theatre, television and other aspects of culture