The movie Ghost, released in 1990, is one of those classic Hollywood movies. The scene between Patrick Swayze’s Sam and Demi Moore’s Molly moulding the clay has become a part of our pop culture. Recently, the movie has been adapted into a musical. A great movie, however, doesn’t necessarily make a great musical. For every The Lion King, there is a Spiderman: Turn Of The Dark. Some might remember The Producers fondly, but who can remember the adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie? Ghost seems to land somewhere in the middle, but more of a disappointment than a success.
In terms of story, the musical doesn’t deviate from the movie. At all. I mean, it feels like it may be word for word the same movie. Some may think that is a good thing. After all, Ghost is a much loved movie. The issue is that what makes a great movie isn’t always what makes a great musical. Characters behave in different ways, they don’t speak in the same way, the story develops differently. If you don’t adapt accordingly then what you can be left with is something that feels a reading of the movie script.
An even more fundamental issue is that Ghost the movie was not a musical. Sure, it had songs. The Righteous Brother’s Unchained Melody is one the iconic moments of early nineties Hollywood. Apart from that though, there wasn’t any other music. Patrick Swayze didn’t burst into song. There no ballads from Demi Moore.
That’s not to say a movie has to already be a musical to be a successful stage musical, but it does mean it has to create a batch of original and memorable songs, and this is where Ghost The Musical struggles. None of the new songs stay long in the memory, and when compared to the several rehashes of Unchained Melody during the show they pale even further.
The acting was disappointing, but the actors are trying to fill pretty big shoes. When you see Sam you can’t help but see Patrick Swazye. When Molly comes on stage, you see the boyish short hair of Demi Moore. It doesn’t help that the stage performers don’t look like the actors from the movie. Arguably, it shouldn’t matter, but for those familiar with the movie, and when the musical follows the plot exactly, it’s hard not to discriminate.
The production value on the other hand, was very good. The musical zipped between scenes seamlessly and the story transitioned well. It was one area where you could really tell this was an international production.
The theater was just over half full for the midweek performance and was predominantly made up of Chinese audience members. With the show performed in English, it was up to the subtitles scrolling down the side of the stage for those who didn’t understand. The subtitles did not work as seamlessly as they would in a movie or television show, but judging from the laughs and gasps, the audience was able to follow the action well enough.
While it’s great to see world famous musicals coming to Dongguan, it’s a pity that this particular production was a bit of a letdown. Let’s hope in the future that the Yulan Theater can keep attracting international productions to the city.
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