Theatre review: Ghost, Playhouse

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THE plot of Ghost the movie is, more or less, incidental to Ghost the Musical. It’s an excuse to put on an almighty stage show celebrating the exuberant zing of NYC with a barrage of light, sound and 80s casual wear. Kind of like one long MTV commercial beamed onto an iMax screen.

So where does this put a mourning widow who spends most of her time moping around her apartment while her dearly beloved and recently departed Sam, a wan and vocally appealing Stewart Clarke, solves the riddle of his untimely death with the aid of a feisty psychic?

On her pink chaise lounge, mostly. Singing sad and desperate solos with her back to the audience, which is entirely at odds with the brash world outside her window.

In fact, by the end of the first act, one begins to suspect director Matthew Warchus’s real love is not Ghost but New York. Like Woody Allen before him, New York is not merely a backdrop but a living, breathing character in itself.

A situation that presents some stunning opportunities and many irrelevant side alleys.

Ghost is almost like a visit to the Sistine Chapel, you spend so much time walking through opulent corridor after opulent corridor to get so see the chapel that you’re too overwhelmed to really appreciate the Michelangelo above your head.

The depiction of Sam’s fight with another ghost on a subway train is a breathtaking, magical piece of theatre. The ghosts ascending to heaven are another delight that in a more reflective show would be a poignant, touching experience. Yet so heady is the pace, these tender moments are buried under an avalanche of CGI city fly-overs, choreographed yuppy executives and fur trimmed numbers dedicated to what Oda Mae, a rhythmic Karlene Wray, would do with $10 million.

Inevitably, audiences will draw parallels between Ghost and the Playhouse’s last extravaganza Dirty Dancing, which has taken the same technology but treated its story with an incredible accuracy and lightness of touch. Frankly, there’s no point in even trying - Ghost is an assault on all the senses, not least taste, and you’re absolutely going to love it.

• Run ends 1 June