Ghost the Musical, Empire Theatre, Sunderland

THERE were ghostly goings-on at the Empire, but on a wild and windy evening on Wearside, it was not a case of things that go bump in the night.

Instead, it was the polished touring stage reprisal of the hit 1990 film musical, Ghost, with its iconic scene featuring Demi Moore at the potter’s wheel flanked by Patrick Swayze from beyond the grave.

Ghost the Musical is Bill Kenwright’s 2011 West End production, which has since toured world-wide and is now making its second stop at the Empire Theatre, Sunderland.

Those familiar with the big-screen version tell me it’s a faithful adaptation of the Bruce Joel Rubin book and Oscar-winning screenplay, featuring the songs and lyrics of Grammy award-winner Glen Ballard and Sunderland’s own master musician Dave Stewart.

It does, of course, also include the Righteous Brothers’ classic Unchained Melody, played alongside the famous scene referred to above.

Despite one or two early reservations over some slightly ropey American accents, the lead couple, Rebekah Lowings, as Molly, and Niall Sheehy, Sam, go on to give a tour de force, with their captivating performances.

Sergio Pasquariello gives a strong showing as the scheming Carl, earning pantomime villain boos from the audience at the curtain call, while Jacqui Dubois rightly earned big cheers for her outstanding take on the reluctant back-street psychic Oda Mae Brown, memorably played by Whoopi Goldberg in the original film, flanked by her two feisty side-kicks, Jochebel Ohene MacCarthy and Sadie-Jean Shirley, as Louise and Clara, respectively.

Other strong performances came from theatre veteran James Earl Adair, as the Hospital Ghost, Subway Ghost Lovonne Richards and Jules Brown as the bungled robber, come killer, Willie Lopez.

Credit too, to the rest of very busy all-singing, all-dancing cast and crew, whose slick stagecraft made seamless segways between scenes, without taking audience attention off the flow of the show.

All in all, a supernatural show, and worth a trip to the Empire, despite the ravages of Storm Gareth, for the reminder of run until Saturday.

Bruce Unwin