The good thing about bad reviews is that they certainly lower one’s expectations when heading to a show.
And so it is that Ghost the Musical returns to Manchester after a rather mixed reception to its run in this new, “reimagined” production from Bill Kenwright.
The good news is its two starring performers, Girls Aloud pop star Sarah Harding and former Hollyoaks actor Andy Moss, are much more polished than those nasty social media commentators would have you believe.
The bad news is, this “reimagining” of the show has stripped out most of the magical moments that made it such a big hit in the city when it had its world premiere here at Manchester Opera House back in 2011.
What remains is a sort of soap opera retelling of the hit 1990 movie starring Patrick Swayze as murdered Sam Wheat who must enlist the help of ‘phoney’ medium Oda Mae Brown to protect his love Molly Jensen from impending doom.
While the film drew memorable performances from all three leading roles (Demi Moore as Molly and Whoopi Goldberg in Oscar-winning formas Oda Mae), it’s only really the Oda Mae character that transforms convincingly in a musical stage version.
Jacqui Dubois is a joy as the comedic clairvoyant who finally inherits her family’s “gift” for communicating with the afterlife when ghost Sam arrives at her parlour. Her songs, Are You a Believer and I’m Outta Here, are the big showstoppers and it is Jacqui winning the biggest cheers at the curtain call at the Palace Theatre.
But there’s also a lot of hometown love for Stockport-raised Sarah and Denton’s Andy in the leading roles.
They do make an engaging couple on stage, with some sizzling chemistry to recreate the film’s now infamous pottery wheel scene.
This new production also makes fresh use of the film’s “anthem” of The Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody which is a welcome addition.
Sarah and Andy said ahead of the show they hoped to “prove critics wrong” and the duo certainly proved they can belt out a song.
Few could fail to be moved by the show’s standout number With You, Molly’s heart-wrenching love letter of grief, which Sarah sings with pure, tender and all-too-real emotion, earning huge applause from the audience on opening night.
Ghost the Musical is at the Palace Theatre until Saturday, October 29