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Ghoulish tradition continues with ghost ; GHOST THE MUSICAL: Royal Concert HallPEOPLE who make a career in the arts can often be oblivious to themes...

August 2, 2013


Ghoulish tradition continues with ghost ; GHOST THE MUSICAL: Royal Concert HallPEOPLE who make a career in the arts can often be oblivious to themes and patterns in their work. Matthew Warchus, the director of Ghost The Musical, is such an example. Simon Wilson reports

ALTHOUGH the producers weren't aware of it when they approached him to direct Ghost The Musical, Matthew Warchus had a long history of working with theatre ghouls.

And it was only when he'd taken on the job that he realised how many plays he'd directed in which ghosts appear.

There's Hamlet whose father, like Sam in Ghost, is trapped between this world and the next until Hamlet's actions can release him, he says.

And there's also Sondheim's Follies in which the ghosts of dead performers appear.

He adds: I've also been really interested in magic and illusion which have found their way into productions of mine such as Our House, the Madness musical, and Peter Pan.

When he returned to the Oscar winning 1990 film, starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Tony Goldwyn, and Whoopi Goldberg, Warchus felt obliged to take on this new stage production.

I saw that it was an exciting piece of writing but it shouldn't really have worked because it mixed genres; it broke the rules.

Far from being a sure-fire hit, the film was an experiment and I was inspired by that.

Warchus will bring the part drama, part music video to the Royal Concert Hall later this month and it's been a technically demanding project, he says.

We discussed where the magic moments were in the script and what I wanted from them, says Warchus of his illusionist collaborator Paul Kieve.

I felt that it was important that Sam saw his own body after his death. The illusions I wanted to appear at the moments of most emotion and I didn't want the audience to applaud them.

Instead, I wanted the audience to cry.

Ghost The Musical is, at its heart, almost a chamber piece about two people, Sam and Molly, coming to terms with the reality of death and living with loss.

But the delicacy and intimacy of their scenes together is sharply contrasted with such up tempo numbers as More, a song that describes the pressures of living a life in the urban jungle of such cities as New York.

Warchus draws an unexpected parallel between the structure of the musical and the classical drama of Ancient Greece.

In the same way that the action in Greek drama is divided between the handful of principal characters and the Chorus which reacts to and comments upon what happens, Ghost The Musical has individual episodes involving only Sam and Molly while the story progresses through the actions of the Chorus. You could do Ghost The Musical with a cast of only five people. But the story is not simply about death, it also deals with life in the city, life in the offices, on the streets.

One of the reasons for the show's popularity is the character of Oda Mae Brown, the phoney psychic, played by Whoopi Goldberg in the film.

Oda Mae provides the solution but it's a lovely twist to have a psychic who knows she's a fraud, says Warchus. She provides what I think the Americans call a treacle-cutter, where a sincere line is followed by a comic one. Oda Mae acts as a counterweight to the darkness of the story and as a character, she is solid gold.

Ghost The Musical is at the Royal Concert Hall from August 13- 24. Performances are at 7.30pm, including matinees on Wednesday and Saturday. Tickets are Pounds 15-Pounds 39.50, call 0115 989 5555 or go to

I didn't want the audience to applaud them...I wanted the audience to cry Director Matthew Warchus ''

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