Having missed out on seeing Ghost, the Musical when it was in London and touring, I was excited about getting the chance to see it performed by the third year Musical Theatre students of Guildford School of Arts this month.
The Ivy Arts Centre at the University of Surrey boasts a lovely auditorium, and the stage was set with some industrial-looking steps at the back, and three hanging gauzes, or curtains, all of which were moved around and used as set throughout the performance. Other items, such as bankers’ desks, and the sofa and fridge in Molly and Sam’s apartment were swiftly moved on and off the stage by cast members. For a show hosting so many scenes and locations, the set design and props had been carefully thought through.
As expected, the cast as a whole put on a stunning performance. The culmination of their years at the university, this musical showcased the standard of talent that will be moving forward into the industry. Choreography by Claira Vaughan allowed chorus members to shine, most noticeably in the songs ‘More and More’ and ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout a Miracle’.
A personal favourite of mine, and judging by the audience reaction, of many, was Bernadette Bangura’s fantastic portrayal of Oda Mae Brown. This was one of those occasions where you can’t imagine anyone else embodying the role. She completely owned every note, and every word muttered under her breath in reaction to the ridiculous situations she was finding herself in. Her scenes provided light relief from the more emotionally heavy parts of the musical, and Bangura’s performance was phenomenal.
Carl, played by Edward Hewlett, is a character who, to use a real cliché, ‘goes on a journey’. Having never seen the film, I didn’t know the story of his character, and Hewlett played the transition from reliable friend, colleague and confidante to a man caught up in jealousy and greed well. I felt his performance was stronger in the first half – the ‘nice guy’ was a role he played particularly well – but I enjoyed his voice throughout.
Sam and Molly needed to be cast carefully, to both achieve a believable love story as a pair, but also to individually answer to the vocal demands of the roles, and an ability to take the audience on the emotional rollercoaster of a tale so many know and love. GSA got their casting spot-on. Taite-Elliot Drew and Jessica Paul had me hooked from the minute they began their rendition of ‘Here Right Now’, and I thought the interplay between the pair was sustained well.
I felt that both characters grew throughout the show, with Drew and Paul both pulling out their best performances in Act 2, although that’s not a criticism of their earlier scenes. Taite-Elliot Drew played ‘alive’ Sam nicely, but came into his own once he was alongside Ode Mae Brown, and had a purpose in trying to help Molly believe. Jessica Paul beautifully captured the combination of vulnerability and strength of Molly, and her voice, one I’ve been lucky to hear many times, is beautiful. ‘With You’ had me in tears, as the song always does, but Paul’s rendition of ‘Nothing Stops Another Day’ gave me a new appreciation for the song, and showed off her voice fantastically.
Sam and Molly’s final scene together was well-measured – it didn’t try and push the emotion too far. The scenes before it had laid the foundations for their emotional goodbye, allowing them to pull back slightly and allow the raw emotion to come through. I, for one, was in tears.
Huge credit goes to the entire cast, but also to their director, Adam Lenson, who clearly played to the strengths of his cast, and allowed them all to be part of a show they can be truly proud of.