Like the film on which it is based, Ghost: The Musical proves the guiltiest of pleasures.
Warchus and Kieve offer a different kind of astonishment.
You see the body, and, a few seconds later, you see the ghost, played by the actor you thought was pretending to be dead.
He’s yards away from the stiff and you have no idea how he got there.
This happens several times, and on each occasion I was fooled by the cunning misdirection of the staging.
The use of state-of-the-art video and projections to conjure up a huge variety of locations from menacing subway stations to sleek Wall Street offices has great panache, too, and there are a host of other splendid tricks.
Though the story is a touch corny, and often gloopily sentimental, there is something genuinely distinctive about Ghost, which combines its lachrymose love story about a murdered banker and his potter girlfriend with frissons of suspense and terrific comedy in the character of the wildly eccentric psychic who comes to their aid.
Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote the original film and is responsible for the only lightly revised book, here was clearly influenced by Coward’s Blithe Spirit, but his feisty medium, Oda Mae Brown, is an entirely different creation from Madam Arcati, and Sharon D Clarke is a comic joy in the role, making the part entirely her own despite following in the Oscar-winning footsteps of Whoopi Goldberg.
And, in a score mostly consisting of bland power ballads by Dave Stewart, whose work here is unfortunately nothing like as good as his songs for Eurythmics (still less the Righteous Brothers’ classic Unchained Melody, which is retained from the film), Clarke almost blows the roof off the theatre with her raucous rendition of the show’s best original number, I’m Out of Here.
As the lovers separated by death, Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy need to ignite a touch more stage chemistry, and could usefully turn down the volume during the strident ballads.
But Andrew Langtree and Ivan de Freitas prove genuinely sinister as the villains of the piece, while the show’s ending, with its mawkish insistence that “the love inside – you take it with you” proves unexpectedly touching and is magically staged.
This may not be a great musical, but it is a highly entertaining one that looks set to keep audiences laughing, gasping and sniffing back tears for a long time to come.