JOYCE MCMILLAN on GHOST – THE MUSICAL at the Playhouse, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 16.5.13.
4 stars ****
IT’S PROBABLY no concidence that the story of Ghost – first a smash-hit film, and now a mighty blockbuster musical – dates from the same period as Tony Kushner’s great millennial American fantasy, Angels In America. In the years before 2000, the western world seemed to throw itself into a last, wild romance with the supernatural, and with religious imagery; hence Bruce Joel Rubin’s powerful and prescient screenplay about a young Wall Street banker killed in the street because he knows too much about some dodgy deals, who comes back, through sheer force of willpower, to save his beloved girlfriend from the same dangerous men who had him murdered.
Now, Rubin’s story has been transformed into a spectacular two-and-a-half-hour stage show, with a cast of almost 20 and a playlist of a dozen new songs, by a team of musicians and lyricists that includes Glen Ballard, and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics; and although most of the music is standard rock-musical stuff – shouty, hyper-emotional ballads, with little subtlety – it provides a tide of souped-up sound on which to float a dazzling and sometimes beautiful visual spectacle, in which stunning design, film and graphics, projected onto all three walls of the stage, interact with some terrific company choreography in the street scenes, and four powerful, punchy leading performances, integrated into the spectacle. There are thrilling illusions by Paul Kieve, as Sam learns how to walk through walls at will; there are exciting images of the subway system, beautiful washes of Manhattan light in Molly’s flat, and rainy street-scenes featuring Magritte-like ranks of umbrellas. The story is hopelessly romantic, the heaven-and-hell imagery pure hokum; but everyone involved in the Ghost design team – from designer Rob Howell on down – should take a bow for one of the most visually exciting shows ever seen at the Playhouse; a kind of surreal film with live actors, and beautiful with it.