Bill Kenwright’s production of Ghost has stripped back all of the visually stunning staging and innovative digital imagery that the musical is renowned for, to focus on the intimate chemistry and potent emotion of the characters.
Telling the story of young couple Molly and Sam who are hopelessly in love and whose lives are blissful. One evening in Brooklyn Sam is tragically shot, leaving Molly heartbroken and struggling to come to terms with the fact he is gone. After Sam is killed, he becomes a disembodied ghost and embarks on discovering the reason for his death and protect Molly.
The production itself has a strong ensemble and stand-out actors, however the performance is sadly let down by its leads.
Sarah Harding’s performance as Molly is unfortunately the worst I have ever seen of a leading lady. Her acting is poor, as her breathy American accent wavers monotonously during her dialogue. She is unable to emotionally connect to the role and struggles to provide a convincing performance. Whilst her singing when blended with other actors is tolerable, her vocals are pitchy as she is unable to sustain the notes and regularly cracks when belting. It is a weak performance that distracts heavily from the production’s promising elements.
Andy Moss works harder to give a more passionate performance as Sam, who is desperately trying to reach Molly to inform her of the danger she is in. He conveys his character well, and this is complimented by his soulful vocals. Although there are moments in which his vocals sound incredibly strained, his pitching is strong.
In contrast, Jacqui Dubois steals the show with her feisty and fiercely funny portrayal of psychic Oda Mae, who can hear Sam as a ghost and helps him to reach Molly. Her vocals are powerful during her big musical numbers Are You A Believer? and I’m Outta Here, which are performed vivaciously. She has energy and wit which has the audience howling with laughter, her excellent stage presence and flair is reflected in the tumultuous round of applause she received in the curtain call.
Similarly, strong vocals are displayed through Sam Ferriday’s depiction of Carl, a friend of Sam and Molly’s who turns out to be behind the plotting of Sam’s murder. He has a clear tone and commanding vocals that solidly stand out amongst the rest.
Despite the poor casting, the ensemble lift the energy with their numbers that provide the weight and power in the show. The musical number at the end of act 1, Suspend My Disbelief/I Had a Life features Harding and Moss, but it is the ensemble’s tight harmonies and slick vocals that end the first act on a high.
On a positive note, the weakness of the leads highlight the talent of the supporting actors, who may have previously been overlooked. Ghost has some notable musical theatre numbers that are renowned for their emotion and poignancy, however this production shines a light on the less iconic songs, showcasing the sublime score in a different way.
Although the casting is poor, celebrity casting isn’t solely to blame. After seeing Alexandra Burke perform sensationally in Sister Act last week, it is proven that pop singers can pull it out the bag when it comes to musical theatre, however sadly Sarah Harding isn’t suited for the stage, letting down the entire production.
** 2 Stars
Ghost is on at the New Alex Theatre in Birmingham until the 24th of September, tickets can be found here.