It’s 30 years since Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore ensured we’d never view a potter’s wheel the same again in Oscar-winning film, Ghost. As Ghost the Musical returns to the Palace Theatre, Manchester, we talk to stars: Niall Sheehy, Rebekah Lowings and Jacqui DuBois to find out what it’s like to bring the much loved story to the stage.
What is Ghost The Musical about?
NIALL: It’s the story of a young couple who suffer a loss. My character, Sam, is killed but can’t seem to move into the next world. His girlfriend, Molly, is in danger. He’s trying to help her while she’s trying to find a way to move on. In the middle of that, he realises that Oda Mae, a fraudulent psychic, can actually hear him, so he enrols her to try and help communicate.
What attracted you to the show?
REBEKAH: When I first saw the show it took my breath away. The storyline is iconic. The songs are just stunning, the orchestration is beautiful.
NIALL: It’s so full of heart and it deals with loss, which is a really important issue. Whether you’ve lost a loved one, a job or anything important, it resonates with us as actors and as audience members.
JACQUI: It puts you in touch with your heart.
NIALL: It takes you on an emotional journey. It’s heartbreakingly sad at points, but it’s also rip-roaringly funny. It’s a show for anybody who believes in the power of love.
What are your characters like?
NIALL: Sam is complex. He’s fun-loving and relaxed, but he has intimacy issues. He has an issue expressing love, but he’s determined and even when he hits rock bottom, he doesn’t give up. He’s a fighter. That’s something I would like to think I share with him.
REBEKAH: Molly has a constant flow of hope and determination. She wants to believe. She’s boisterous. She’s a tomboy, like me.
JACQUI: I love Oda Mae. She’s direct and I have that part of my personality. She is a real hustler and a survivor.
It’s nearly 30 years since Ghost was released as a film. Why do you think the story has stood the test of time?
REBEKAH: It’s because the characters are so relatable to everyone. This show is so real.
NIALL: As much as it’s this wonderful, crazy story, these characters are absolutely rooted in the truth. Everyone can relate to feelings of loss and of thinking ‘If only I had five more minutes with them’.
JACQUI: It’s a universal thing. It doesn’t matter what country you come from, what colour you are, what sexuality you are, we all feel this exactly the same way. No-one owns it more than anyone else. If you love, you love. I lost my mother the last time I did this show. That was very hard. But at the end of the show every night I connect with my parents. I think the audience has that too. At that moment, I’m probably an audience member feeling the same things as them.
The potter’s wheel scene is an iconic moment of movie history. What’s it like to perform on stage?
REBEKAH: I was originally petrified because, apart from being a performer, my artistic qualities are very slim. I love that scene because we have so much fun. I wish I could get Niall more messy, but he has a quick change right after and I’m not allowed.
NIALL: People want to see those “Ditto” moments because that’s what they remember from the film, and it’s a lovely scene to be part of because you know it’s one of those amazing moments. But we’re not here to mimic Patrick Swayze, Whoopi Goldberg or Demi Moore. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel either. Hopefully when people see this show, they’ll see the film they remember but they’ll also see something very different.
What does the music, written by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, bring to the story?
REBEKAH: The songs are so well written, they don’t feel like songs, they feel like an extension of the script. I know that sounds silly, but you could easily speak the songs.
NIALL: It’s an eclectic songbook and a cleverly constructed score. The music we’re singing perfectly suits who we are as characters. The writers have done a lot of work on the music, with some of the songs being drastically rewritten for this production. It’s great to see a musical that hasn’t just been finished and left. They’ve reworked it, so thankfully I think we have an even better piece now.
What’s the best thing about touring?
REBEKAH: I love touring. You get to see different cities, different places. And I love weekly touring because you can’t ever get bored. You’re always on a new stage in a new city and everything feels slightly different and more exciting.
NIALL: It’s fantastic to take a new show into a town. Audiences, I find, are so excited and up for it. And you get to experience some lovely things in cities you may never have got to do otherwise. We always have an unofficial social secretary within the cast who says we’re going to do X, Y and Z. There’ll be plenty of fun to be had over the course of the tour.
I’m looking forward to Manchester. As well as being a beautiful city, I made some really good friends there on my last touring job. I’ve already spoken to them and they’re excited to have the show come to the city.
What’s makes live theatre special?
JACQUI: It’s historic. It’s how we shared together when we lived in little villages and tribes. Everyone gathered for storytelling.
NIALL: To see live theatre is a real joy. To see actors on stage showing rage or love or sadness, to be in the presence of raw emotion, which hopefully you’ll see in our production, it’s powerful. Every time I see a show it moves me more than when I’m watching a film in my living room where I can pick up my phone if I want to quickly send a text message. In a theatre you leave the world outside and get engrossed in the story.
Read our review of West Side Story at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.