Tag Archives: Richard Fleeshman

Ghost – The Musical

8 Oct

We all have a bunch of movies that remind us of our teens. For me one of those movies is “Ghost”. That one was every teenage girl’s dream back in the days: Romantic, sad and funny all mixed together. And it had Patrick Swayze and come on, we all loved “Johnny Castle”!

And now that much loved movie of my youth has been adapted for the stage. I’m one of those people that think there are too many movies being made into stage shows and too little original musicals these days. I’m always the sceptic when it comes to watching yet another film to stage show. I had read mixed reviews about this one prior to seeing it. Almost everyone praised the special effects (all that walking through doors stuff and so on) and the cast. The score didn’t seem to be everyone’s thing and some found the whole adaption a bit lacking in tension. However, it seemed to be a show worth watching.

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I’m writing this after my second visit to “Ghost” which kind of answers one question straight away: Did I enjoy the show? Yes, I’m known for watching shows I don’t love various times simply due to people in the cast but on this occasion I can honestly say: I loved “Ghost”!
I’ve mentioned this in previous blogs: I’m not someone who cries a lot in the theatre. This one however had me sobbing in my seat more than once.

The cast is lead by Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman. Caissie was part of what I call “The summer of Hair” (2010). I adore that woman, I really do. She’s got an amazing voice and she is such a pure and natural actress. There’s something about her that makes the audience connect with her and the character she portrays right from the start. In my eyes Caissie is a real star. She’s talented, she’s beautiful and she’s so naturally nice. Her Molly is truthful, honest and vulnerable in such a personal way that you just want to take her in your arms and tell her everything will be ok. “With you” had me glued to my seat . Just Caissie on stage, singing – it doesn’t get much better than this.
I’ve seen Richard as Warner in Legally Blonde and I admit I wasnt very fond of him back then. I thought his portrayal of the character was rather bland (yes, I know Warner is not the most well written character in musical history but still…). So yes, I was unsure about him being cast as Sam and didn’t think he would be able to do the famous Patrick Swayze part justice. But as much as I don’t have a problem saying that I also don’t have a problem admitting when I’ve been wrong. And I was on this occasion – big time!! Richard’s Sam was everything I imagined it should be. The guy can act, the guy can sing and the guy can show emotion on stage. Him and Caissie work so well together. A pure joy to watch!

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Another vital part in this show is Oda Mae Brown who was played by Whoopi Goldberg in the movie. I’ve been lucky to have seen both Sharon D Clarke and her understudy Lisa Davina Phillip in the role. Both were fantastic in their own way. In my eyes Sharon is a brilliant performer. She’s got the most amazing voice and really owns the stage. But I have to say if I had to make a choice I’d go for Lisa as Oda Mae. There was just something in her performance that made the character that tiny bit more natural and believable. Maybe it’s because whenever I see Sharon on stage I automatically see Killerqueen (from “We will rock you”, the show I first saw her in back in 2003). And Oda Mae Killerqueen just doesn’t work that well.
Andrew Landtree as Carl does a great job but I do think the character is not very well written. He’s a bit flat and the audience doesn’t get the chance to get to know him the way they get to know Sam, Molly and Oda Mae.
Ivan de Freitas is perfectly cast as the bad guy Willie Lopez. He seems to be stuck with playing similar characters though – bad guys who sometimes have the tendency to be a bit stupid (Sister Act springs to mind).

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I’m not totally sure about either the Subway Ghost nor the Hospital Ghost. Both Adebayo Bolaji and Mark White are doing a good job but the characters themselves are not for me I’m afraid. First of all I think the whole “Ball of wax” completely destroys the emotional scene of Sam’s death. I mean, Sam dies (everyone’s sad) and the next thing we see is a Ghost doing a tap dance? Please!!
Then there’s the whole “Focus” scene with the rapping Subway Ghost. The scene is loud but it’s not as powerful as it intends to be and I found it rather hard to understand what Adebayo was saying or better, what he was shouting. The message got lost in the noise for me.
Big shout out to the whole ensemble! Everyone is working so hard on this show but unfortunately the ensemble doesn’t really get much attention. They are often reduced to being a bunch of extras that walk around in the background which is a shame. There’s some awesome choreography in this show and the ensemble guys and girls clearly are a hugely talented bunch of dancers.
I’d like to mention 2 people in particular at this point: Darren Carnall and Louise Lawson. I’ve known Darren for years now and have seen him in various shows. And he has always managed to catch my eye no matter how small his part has been. Seeing Darren dance really puts a smile on my face. His energy seems to know no limits and he’s got such a positive personality – the guy is amazing.
Louise used to work in Germany a couple of years ago which is where I first met her. It’s fantastic to see her in this big production in London now. She’s a great dancer and I hope she will be around in this business for a long time – she definitely deserves a place in the West End.

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As the reviews had suggested the special effects in “Ghost” were quite stunning. I honestly didn’t manage to understand how some of them worked the first time I saw the show. My second visit revealed a bit more as I knew where to look the different scenes. I’m guessing once you’ve seen the show a few times the effects will lose a lot of their magic. But then watching the same show again and again is not what the regular theatregoer does. And for someone who goes to see “Ghost” just the one time those effects are truly magical.

I like the score of the show. It has some powerful ballads and it doesn’t overuse “Unchained Melody” (something I was most afraid of). “Here right now” and “With you” are the two songs that I enjoy the most followed by “I’m outta here” which is a really catchy and fun number. As mentioned before I’m not that keen on “Ball of wax” and “Focus”. But all in all this is in my eyes a great score with a good mix of ballads and uptempo songs.

If you haven’t seen the show please do give it a try. It’s worth it! I will definitely be back and yes, I do believe.

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Ghost is playing at the Piccadilly Theatre. For more info go to http://www.ghostthemusical.co.uk/.

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Haven’t I seen you on the telly?

10 Sep

I only started this whole blog thing a few days ago after being told by a lovely performer friend that I should have one. We were in this pub in Soho along with her boyfriend just before watching Jersey Boys and were talking about this and that. And whenever it came to anything theatre related I would skip in a “Oh, but that show is going into that theatre” or “He finishes in that show in a month”. Just random theatre news stuff really – for some reason I’m quite good at remembering things like that (I wish I would have been that good at remembering vocabulary back in my school days!!). So in the end she said “You should have a theatre blog!!”. Which brings me to the here and now. I’m sitting outside with my notebook. It’s a lovely day, apparantly the last day of summer if the weather forecast is right for once. And I’m thinking “Now that I’ve got this blog I actually have to be interesting!”. I do feel the pressure I promise you!

And since I have no show to review at this point (unless you want me to write about shows I’ve seen more than 2 weeks ago which I will if I get asked to do so!) I thought I’d squeeze in a piece about theatre and celebrities. Because lets face it, the Jude Law’s and Keira Knightley’s and Hugh Jackman’s of this world are a part of theatre life. More and more movie and tv actors (and sometimes even popstars) take the step onto a theatre stage.

I’ve had the chance to see quite a few well known people in plays and musicals. And yes, there have been shows I have gone to see especially because I wanted to see “that famous person” in it. It’s obvious producers like to put someone famous in a show as this almost guarantees an increase in ticket sales. And theatre is after all a business.
My biggest fear whenever I hear of a celebrity taking on a part in a show is that ticket sales are the only reason for casting that person. Who cares about talent? He/She is going to put bums on seats! So honestly, all the time I go and see a show that has someone more or less famous in it I’m filled with a kind of hesitation and I do try and lower my expectations. Of course, there are exceptions. When I went to see A Steady Rain with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig on Broadway (front row seat I might add) I was over the moon with excitement! That was the theatrical event of the year for me and I had been raving about it for weeks and weeks before the actual day. No hesitation or low expectations – I was about to see Hugh Jackman on stage and I expected him to blow me away! And he did I can assure you. Both him and Daniel Craig were beyond amazing. And yes, I did meet them both and yes, I did get a pic with Mr. Jackman and yes, I was the happiest girl on the planet in that moment!

But those exceptions aside a celebrity on stage always fills me with worry. Will he/she be able to act properly, on a stage, in front of a live audience, with no chance to just shout “Cut!” and do the whole scene again?

Maybe I’ve just been lucky but so far I can honestly report I haven’t witnessed any complete disasters in that department. I admit I will never be fond of Duncan James’ Billy Flynn and I found his Warner a bit bland (but actually missed him when Richard Fleeshman took over – funny enough I loved Richard’s performance in Ghost!). But there has been no one who’s performance I really disliked. Actually a lot of famous people have surprised me by being proper stage actors and actresses. There was Daniel Radcliffe in Equus. Who thought little Harry Potter had it in him to take on a part like that? Yes, it was a bit of a shocker to see the guy run around the stage naked for what seemed like an eternity but I think he did really well in that play and I’m happy I got to see him.
Christian Slater in One Flew Over The Cockoo’s Nest – quite a dark part in a not very happy play and he was brilliant. Although I have to add that Mackenzie Crook (you know, that guy from The Office and the pirate with the fake eye from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) stole the show for me. Amazing acting!
There was Josh Hartnett in Rain Man. I expected a pretty face and I got that plus a proper stage actor. He knew exactly where to pause and how to hold the audience’s attention.
Ben Barnes in Birdsong – pure charisma on stage! Matthew Fox in In A Forest Dark And Deep – there’s definitely more to that guy than Jack from Lost. Ethan Hawke in A Winter’s Tale – he can even sing, I didn’t know that!
Jeff Goldblum in Speed-the-Plow and Prisoner Of Second Avenue – two great performances which I enjoyed tremendously. Rowan Atkinson in Oliver – such a versatile actor who played Fagin with just the right mixture of humor and danger. John Stamos in Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway – the show was a small disaster (cheap set, not so great child actors and the whole thing was rather tacky) but it did keep me entertained and that was mainly due to John. He was funny and he could sing. Gillian Anderson in A Doll’s House – I’ve been watching the X-Files right from the start (I can still throw random quotes from the show at you without thinking about it) so I was a little biased. But that woman, as tiny as she is, has such a huge amount of talent that it didn’t even occur to me to see Scully from The X-Files. I saw Nora from Henrik Ibsen’s play.
Ewan McGregor in Guys and Dolls – the man can sing and dance and act. I might add that he wasn’t my favourite Sky Masterson (Norman Bowman and Sebastien Torkia share that throne) but I definitely enjoyed his performance a lot. Jude Law in Hamlet – what a breathtaking performance and I’m usually not someone who really enjoys Shakespeare.

Ok, not every performance was flawless and amazing. David Schwimmer in Some Girls – the guy did well but basically he was just Ross from Friends on that stage. It fit the character he portrayed but it didn’t convince me of him as a stage actor. After all this was no real challenge, he’d had years to perfect Ross. Keira Knightley in The Misanthrope was alright but nothing outstanding if you ask me (but then the play itself wasn’t my thing either). And David Hasselhoff in Chicago – I’m not going to say anything nasty about The Hoff! He was my childhood hero (there, I’ve said it!!) and I will always have a soft spot for him. And his Billy Flynn was entertaining and not that bad. He certainly seemed to enjoy being on stage. It’s just once you’ve seen people like Alex Bourne play the part you know how it should be done.

The one thing I don’t like is putting wannabe clebrities on stage in the hope of selling more tickets which mostly happens in musical theatre. There are talented people out there for those parts. People who have worked hard to succeed in the business and who deserve a chance to shine. And yet they get pushed aside by so called “names” who often lack the voice and the skills for the part they play.
So, I say yes to celebrities on stage if they have what it takes. And from my experience the really famous people are often the ones with the real talent. Only very few less known celebs (but still celebs as people will say “Haven’t I seen her/him on the telly?” when they see their picture or read their name) have convinced me of being worthy of their part in a West End show. And that always leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth as I know those people are standing on that stage just because they are who they are and nothing more. As much as I do understand the need to sell a show to Joe Public it shouldn’t be necessary to do so by putting names on stage. The aim should be to produce shows that sell because the audience wants to see the show and not “so and so” in the show. It’s possible! Look at Wicked or Jersey Boys for example.

Sadly the general public often expects to get something “special” (and who can blame them for 65 quid) and in these days that often involves well known people on stage. I really wish people would start to admire and respect the theatre more and actually enjoy being entertained by a good story, a good score and a talented cast. Well, I can always dream, right?

And by the way, I didn’t mention Kevin Spacey in this blog because let’s face it: Kevin Spacey may be a celebrity but he’s also Kevin Spacey! The man is an acting genius and clearly belongs on a theatre stage.