REVIEW: Ghost at the New Theatre, Oxford
Where was Sarah Harding? Who cares?! Ghost had its first night at Oxford’s New Theatre last night and the spooky thing was how excellent the understudy was. Ms Girls Aloud has had a sketchy few months in the title role of Molly, pulling out several times due to illness, so I guess Kelly Hampson has had some practise and then some, but it really shows. Her voice was pure and effortless, she oozed confidence on the stage, and her acting wasn’t too shabby either. No images of Kelly in action (the life of the understudy I’m afraid), so say hello to Kelly in press shot mode instead.
Do I need to remind you of the story of Ghost? Probably not, for how can we forget Demi (Molly), Patrick (Sam) and that potter’s wheel (whopping great phallus), or Whoopi Goldberg’s turn as a fake clairvoyant who is the only person who can help the murdered Sam protect Molly from his rogue best friend Carl?
Ghost the movie was a total schmaltzfest with a delicious dollop of Swayze shirtless sex appeal that pushed it to the top of the box office. Man, I fancied him so badly between 1987 and 1990, didn’t you (and if not, who?!). I knew the musical would be fun but kind of expected it to be heavy on the fromage, but actually, I have to admit it, the production was very moving in parts, with Kelly Hampson and Sam Ferriday who played Sam at the show I watched, but usually plays Carl – er, keep up – bringing a real intensity to their on-stage relationship that brought a tear to the cynical Muddy eye on several occasions.
No need to fear though, it’s no sobfest, with moments of real tension (murder will do that to a show) and plenty of laughs too, mostly via Jacqui Dubois as the Whoopi Goldberg character of Oda Mae – she had great comic timing, not to mention whopping great big lungs on her, a real showstopper of a voice. Also worthy of a nod, the excellent vocal backing from Tarisha Rommick nad Simi Akande.
Sets were simple but effective, swapping seamlessly between the groovy brick-and-glass Brooklyn apartment, the NY subway ghost train and Sam’s office, and the death scenes were particularly clever, with ‘bodies’ replacing actors so quickly on the floor that you couldn’t see how they did it.
The supporting cast was excellent, dance routines tight, and the songs, though numerous – for, you know tis a musical – weren’t just there as fillers, and allowed the dramatic content to push the performance forward.
What’s not to like? Not much in truth. If I’m being a bit Simon Cowell about it and super-picky, there was the occasional moment when Kelly Hampson’s vocal pushed a bit too hard and I would have liked slightly more warmth to her performance at times, and there’s that usual British embarrassed sinking feeling I had when Ethan Bradshaw playing Carl sucked, tensed and took his top off and the crowd whooped, but y’know, that’s my problem!
Overall, I can say hand on heart, slightly surprised at myself, that this musical, on this night, with this cast, pulled off a superior show, low on cheese, high on class. A phantasmic Muddy thumbs up.
Ghost is performed The New Theatre Oxford until Saturday 5 Nov. Tickets