August 10, 2011
Piccadilly Theatre, London
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Warning – tissues required, this one’s certainly a tear jerker! Amidst the depressing times of the disgrace that is the London riots, this phenomenal piece of theatre does an astounding job of sweeping you off your feet and forgetting about the world for a couple of hours. Incredible as the experience was, my only disappointment was that I wished it had gone on for longer. Please don’t hesitate when considering the hype that surrounds this musical, this is a once in a life time must see!
Having caught clips here and there as a child while the 1990s film was at its peak, I decided to sit down to it in preparation for the show, simply to appreciate it as the classic it was and is; some healthy research if you will. Before setting foot inside the Piccadilly, my first ‘note to self’ was to intentionally ensure the separation of these two creations, and how right I was. ‘Ghost The Musical’ is a credit in its own right and deserves every praise for the spectacle that it is. Due to my experience of trailers and television clips of the production, my initial thought whilst seating myself was that of small surprise as I wondered the possibilities of producing these so called spectacular tricks and illusions in quite a small space. How wrong I was this time. The moment the first note was played by the orchestra while the glimmering screen projection worked its magic, I knew immediately that I was in for a treat.
‘Ghost The Musical’ is of course based on the film creation, but this is an insignificant detail that is lost straight away as this stunning piece of theatre stands on its own two marvellous feet. The story goes, two lovers Sam and Molly suffer pain and grief when Sam is murdered and has to deal with unfinished business in this romantic whirlwind, as a ghost. As a first note, I must give a resounding applause to illusionist Paul Kieve who really has helped shape this show’s wow factor. This was the one aspect that was at the centre of all conversation by the exiting patrons. ‘How did they do that?’ is a question I’d rather not hear the answer to, the magic produced was perfect, even when seated in the stalls with barely a piece of string in sight. What to expect? Walking through solid objects and leaping from your own body multiplying yourself on stage. Impossible? I tell no lies.
What delighted myself most about this musical was its developed quality; this is a new piece of theatre with plenty of style. The choreography in particular states this loud and clear as choreographer Ashley Wallen interjects contemporary excellence with hints of street on varied occasions, but also pursuing a traditional attribute in the form of a tap dance. If I had to be picky, I’d admit I did have some trouble adjusting to the randomness of the tap sequence/song interrupting the character Sam’s frustration, but as the scene unfolded it took its place in promoting the action and feeling of the characters which was certainly felt by myself.
Before I discuss the wonder that is our main characters, I must prioritise a mention regarding the set. Three screens is all it takes with a few pieces of furniture, revolving like no other set I have witnessed in a long time. The range of action this set projects is of a gobsmacking quality, rapidly moving the story line along in the slickest of fashions. The modernised tech work and projection really stamps its mark on the musical announcing ‘this is what I am, and aren’t I one technical, theatrical marvel!’ Due to the high standard of backstage and technical production, you are immediately warped by the show and wrapped up in the experience. On hindsight, an incredible amount of detail goes unnoticed and it all moulds into one big dazzling visual.
Finally on to our cast, and my goodness does Richard Fleeshman (Sam Wheat) shine the brightest. I struggle in shock to describe the wonder that is this actor, but to say I was blown away is an embarrassing understatement. I am astonished at the amount of the character’s emotion that is transferred to our own hearts by him, and considering the young lad has never entered into the usual training most actors opt for, his raw talent is just perfect for this piece of theatre. Equally magnificent is of course Caissie Levy (Molly Jensen). Even the knowledge that this lady has played a most wonderful Elphaba on Broadway cannot prepare you for the sensation that she is. Her talent is effortless and it is incredibly difficult to not believe in her. What a privilege to have experienced her grace the stage. When I wasn’t sobbing, I was revelling in the comic genius that is Oda Mae Brown, otherwise known as Sharon D Clarke. Such a heart warming, captivating actress yet ever so gifted in creating vast amounts of laughter, as were her two side kicks Jenny Fitzpatrick (Louise) and Lisa Davina Phillip (Clara). The face, the voice, the charisma, Andrew Langtree who plays the role of evil Karl portrays the character’s betrayal with such style, you are promptly intrigued by the depth of this persona; just pure brilliance. The ensemble did more than a grand job, such beautiful talent doing the show wonderful justice and some brilliantly distinctive characters throughout. Due to such exquisite stage presence, you are bound to notice Emily Hawgood who shines through her ensemble status.
Other mentions include that of the subway scenes which are particularly endearing alongside a clever piece rapped by a subway ghost, action packed ensemble banker scenes and the connection of the two acts, pulling you in immediately forgetting there ever was an interval. The score of the musical is absolutely stunning. Each song belongs there and connects to the audience in every way it intends to. The track that stuck with me long after the show was the touching and beautiful ‘With You’, a song made just for Caissie it seems. A chilling reminder of ‘Unchained Melody’ makes a well deserved appearance resulting in a tender duet between Richard and Caissie. The production as a whole is thrilling, explosive and immensely powerful leaving yourself and the theatre trembling as the curtain goes down; what an atmosphere. Emotionally gripping and you are wholeheartedly rooting for these two lovers. And without sounding too cheesy, from start to finish, you believe.