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Blackout Theatre Company: Ghost - Review by Selina Wong

When I first heard the 90s romantic fantasy film, Ghost was adapted into a musical, I didn’t know what to expect. Surely the supernatural elements would be difficult to convey and how could the protagonist convince the audience that he was a ghost?

Blackout Theatre’s production of Ghost: The Musical, directed by Cierwen Newell and assisted by her mother Ruth Newell, was a mesmerising feast for the senses. Newell’s vision of providing a “supernatural ride” with its “unique blend of music and special effects” was masterfully executed.  The musical followed the same plot and paid homage to the film by keeping the infamous pottery wheel scene and its signature song “Unchained Melody”, which featured throughout the production. 

Molly Jenson (Sarah Vandenberg) and Sam Wheat (Luke Harris) are a young New York couple very much in love. Their blissful life is forever changed when Sam is killed during a mugging. Sam’s spirit is in limbo as he teams up with psychic Oda Mae (Jacqui Perez) to communicate with and protect Molly from those responsible for his death. 

Vandenberg put on a stellar performance and captured the experience of grief and a love that endures even after death. Molly’s heart wrenching despair was palpable in Vandenberg’s delivery of “Rain/Hold On”. Her exceptional vocals provided an emotional depth that brought tears to my eyes. Vandenberg and Harris’ on stage chemistry drew the audience in; especially in Three Little Words. From the moment of Sam’s death, Harris’ accomplished acting made his role as a ghost not only believable, but gripping. Complimented by his vocals, Harris encapsulated Sam’s initial helplessness, frustration and determination. Highlights of Harris’ performance was the fight scene with the Subway Ghost played by Liam Vicari and perfectly choreographed by Daniel Lavercombe, and his final dance with Molly.

Rob Hale, who plays Sam’s friend and coworker Carl Bruner, delivered a strong performance. Hale’s vocals, on stage presence and intensity reflected his experience in theatre. The changing nature of the relationship between Vandenberg, Harris and Hale emulated suspense throughout the production; particularly when Carl breaks into Molly’s apartment. 

The audience favourite was Oda Mae Brown played by the rambunctious and equally hilarious Perez. She perfected a complex role and ensured the sorrow of the production was balanced with comedic timing. Perez’ strong vocals, stage presence and slapstick comedy in “I’m Outta Here” alongside her support for Sam, showcased the sheer range of Perez’  acting ability. I particularly loved the evolving and endearing relationship between Sam and Oda Mae. Complemented by the Brown sisters, the audience was also in hysterics with the hilarious performances by Lucy Giles and Kate Simmons. 

Other notable roles were played by Tristan Foon, the first ghost Sam meets and his engaging performance in “You Gotta Let Go Now” naturally depicted an all knowing spirit. My personal favourite was Vicari, The Subway Ghost. Vicari’s chaotic and frightening characterisation authentically depicted a vengeful and haunting spirit who longed for peace. Matthew Mey as Willie Lopez was so authentic and Brooke Rose as Mrs Santiago added humour and realism of ‘New Yorkers’ The ensemble was exceptional and so versatile. From vibrant New York bankers to haunting spirits, the ensemble was able to transport the audience to many realistic settings. Lavercombe and Milly Caruana’s innovative choreography alongside Katie Griffith’s costuming brought the story to life. The bankers, ghosts, subway passengers and Oda Mae’s dazzling outfits were truly fitting.

It is impossible to discuss the staging, lighting, music and special effects separately as they all worked hand in hand to deliver a sensory experience. The diverse musical sounds, simplistic set design and visuals transported the audience from Sydney’s Hills district to the streets of New York. The lighting, practical props and stage trickery made the deaths of Sam, the mugger and Carl so shocking and powerful. Music director Koren Beale would have had to work closely with Stephen Helies to create suspense and enhance the emotional depth of the narrative. The band and pit singers must be congratulated on successfully taking the audience by the hand on an emotional rollercoaster. I actually held my breath for many scenes! 

Blackout Theatre Co truly exceeded all my expectations of how Ghost: The Musical would be. Even after the show was finished, I had tears streaming down my face and was left in awe of how a stage production could deliver such a complex musical experience.

Photo Credits: Maria Gorelik

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1 Comment

May 20

I was so impressed with the stage magic in this show! i gasped!

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