Entertainment Hive 2019

Ghost The Musical

Australian Premiere

Adelaide Festival Centre, Festival Theatre until January 31

Review by Honey B

The magic of theatre is alive in Ghost The Musical. It's the technical aspects of this spectacular and ambitious show that truly set it apart from the rest. From the opening scene the stage was illuminated with giant flashy LED screens as the audience was catapulted through the streets of New York, seemingly dodging skyscrapers in an exhilarating opening that led to Sam (played by Rob Mills) and Molly's (Jemma Rix) run-down Brooklyn loft apartment. Here the sensual duo were joined by their best-friend Carl (Alex Rathgeber), and third wheel to their romance, as picture perfect images of the threesome flashed up all over the stage. Peel back the sensational technology and at the heart of this slick musical lies a typical romantic drama with a touch of comedy - just like the 1990s film it was based on starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. The musical mirrors the film pretty seamlessly and has benefitted from Bruce Joel Rubin adapting his own sentimental Oscar-winning screenplay as there were plenty of nods to the classic movie such as "ditto'' and the Righteous Brothers hit Unchained Melody which was cleverly weaved into the story at several pivotal points. From the outset this musical had a lot to live up to, from its iconic filmic roots and powerful stars Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg as the unforgettable psychic Oda Mae Brown to the more enormous technical ambitions of spectral activity. Thankfully the Australian production has a strong cast who can cut through the smoke and mirrors  to convey real emotions be it passion, loss, anger or some colourful, light relief comedy. The technical aspects of this show are enormous and a highly-guarded secret and feature such spectacular illusions as spirits rising from dead bodies, ghosts walking through doors, levitating and moving objects, spirits inhabiting others bodies and evil-doers being banished to the underworld. Thanks to illusionist Paul Kieve, video-projection specialist Jon Driscoll and lighting designer Hugh Vanstone these things are were all mind-bendingly plausible and possible. While all of this could have inhibited the cast, the leads truly shone through especially the highly-talented Jemma Rix who infused the artistic Molly with a quirky, passionate and playful soul. Her smile could light up any of the LED screens on-stage. But on the flipside, Rix also touched souls with her raw grief which was palpable as she sang With You. The charming Rob Mills was likely born to play the role of high flying banker Sam Wheat and it was great to see him bring out a more tough, powerful and romantic side. Millsy has grown into a true leading man - Mills and Rix had sizzling chemistry. He also handled the ghost scenes with aplomb as this role could be very difficult to pull off - he's a ghost lurking in the background, trying to communicate. While Alex Rathgeber as Sam and Molly's best friend Carl was cast brilliantly. Rathgeber was a delight to watch as his character slowly unravelled and he was able to believably transform from friend to foe. Rathgeber also delighted many in the audience with a shirtless scene - he's rocking a solid six-pack. The ladies sitting behind us were audibly disappointed when he left the stage. The threesome also had some powerhouse pop/rock numbers including Suspend My Disbelief/I Had A Life and Rain/Hold On - breath-taking stuff. However it was Wendy Mae Brown who really stole the show as psychic Oda Mae Brown in her vivid colourful costumes and streetwise, hilarious manner. Her gospel-style number I'm Outta Here was a flashy piece of sugar and who could forget the comedic gold of the Rita Miller bank scene. David Denis as the aggressive train poltergeist deserves a shout-out for a solid, rage-fuelled performance. Ghost The Musical had it all - drama, sentiment, comedy, a tight ensemble cast and FX that were hard to believe. But audiences will leave believing and many will leave with tear-streaked faces as this innovative, powerhouse musical unashamedly takes a little piece of your heart.
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