GHOST The Musical: a review that’s not to be taken for granted

Earlier this week I found myself queuing in Leicester Square at the ticket booth.

Earlier this week I found myself queuing in Leicester Square at the ticket booth. THE ticket booth, not the alley way of ticket booths that try to mug you as soon as you step out of the tube station, the one actually IN Leicester Square. I make a point of this because I’m sure it gets a bad name from the others that try to lure you in with offers and then sting you with ‘All I’ve got left mate is £45 for…..(fill in the blank with the show that you promised your partner you would take them to see ).’ But I digress… there I was queuing for a ticket that I wasn’t going to have to pay for, to a show I didn’t know was yet available and I was trying not to think ‘could I be spending my midday any better?’ Well no, to be honest. I’m re-reading Fever Pitch which kept me entertained in the queue and I’m not back at Uni until next week, so I may as well have been there than anywhere else.

The reason I wasn’t paying for this ticket was that I am going to be a London Ambassador during the Paralympics and the organisers have seen fit to hand out free tickets on a first come first served basis to their volunteers. I adore theatre and jumped at the chance. I had to choose my day, turn up and see what was available from a list of great shows. I had trouble deciding what to see having been a theatre-goer for more years than I care to remember; did I want to go and see Wicked for the 5th time? Well yes, frankly, but then I could go and see She Stoops To Conquer or The 39 steps… but when musicals are so pricey and this was a freebie I went with my ‘what would be the best use of this gift’. Luckily I had a good fifteen minutes or so to make up my mind while re-running Arsenal’s dire seasons in the late sixties (see earlier ref to Fever Pitch) and decided to see GHOST The Musical… providing the tickets were available. Yes I’d seen the film but could remember very little about it and I had heard tremendous reviews of this production.

On approaching the ticket window I was met by a very cheery man who asked what I was hoping to obtain a ticket for. Cleverly worded I thought; under promise, then over deliver. On informing him that I had hoped to see Ghost, he smiled even more broadly and said he could sort that for me. Not only sort it but the ticket came with a free CD of the original soundtrack! Who said volunteering has no perks? Yes, yes I’m sure my words will come back to haunt me in August when I’m trying to point tourists in the right direction, in the pouring rain, wearing a red uniform that does nothing for my complexion – but right there holding my CD I wasn’t thinking along those lines.

With seven hours to kill before curtain up I decided to return home. This was probably just an excuse to ride the tube, which I have to say became quite pertinent later on in the evening and I will return to that later. I then spent the afternoon debating whether to listen to the CD or wait until I could place the songs against a particular scene. I decided to wait.

On arrival at the Piccadilly Theatre, which despite the massive contractor work going on between it and the station I managed to find, I was then set with the dilemma of either popping into the pub opposite or having a drink in the theatre bar. One glance into the elegant but crowded pub sorted the query. It was a night out which wasn’t costing me too much so I thought a civilised glass of something sitting with fellow theatre-goers was the sensible solution.

I had to smile when the ticket attendant spent rather longer on my ticket than the previous person. You see mine was a different colour to everyone else’s and had no price on it. He kept up his ‘that’s lovely thank you-toilets this way, bar that, enjoy your evening’, through gritted teeth but initially I’m sure I heard him say, ‘Aye aye, a freebie? Who is this cheapskate?’

On arrival at the bar I had a major flashback about having been charged £7 for a glass of wine at another theatre, so I opted for a vodka and tonic. It was probably not going to be much cheaper but it would last longer. My choice of drinking holes proved wise; there was a pianist tickling the ivories in the corner. I guess the clue was in front of me on the drinks menu: ‘The Piano bar at The Piccadilly.’ After the barmaid lovingly prepared my drink and fleeced me for £6 (which I’m assuming was for all that ice she put in it), she gave me my change on a silver platter. Now I’m not one to refuse to tip if someone goes above and beyond – but I hadn’t seen any of that so I scooped up my change and found a seat.

Being on my own I got out the trusty phone and checked my emails, Facebook and twitter while trying to make my vodka and tonic last longer than a glass of wine. The couple of ladies next to me were on the phone telling whoever that Richard Fleeshman was playing Sam and although she had not heard of him she gathered he was rather fit. They obviously hadn’t bought a programme either. I had been Googling the cast meanwhile and found that he had recently been replaced by an equally fit Mark Evans. Siobhan Dillon played Molly. The music and lyrics were written by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard and to be honest with you that is all you need to know. (By the time you may go to see this, the cast may have again been overhauled.)

Vodka and T finished (20 minutes- could be a record) I decided to take my seat. I was half expecting a viewing restriction or at least the need to hunt around for a pound for use of the binoculars. But no! What a pleasant surprise to find that even though I was at the back of the circle I had an excellent view and felt engaged with the stage. (I mention this because I recently went to see Legally Blonde and was so far away I could have been watching from Broadway and could barely pick out the actors on the stage.) After a few minutes a single man, in the sense that he was attending the theatre solo, sat down three seats away from me. Ah ha I thought, a fellow Ambassador. I wonder if I should speak to him in the interval and ask him about his role during the Olympics etc? Maybe we could see who could make a vodka and tonic last the longest before the bell went for the second act. And just as I was plucking up the courage to do so I suddenly remembered where I was. This was GHOST. He was probably on his own having lost his partner and had come to wallow in his own memories. I decided I’d get an ice cream in the interval and keep myself to myself; which is more than can be said for the Japanese couple who sat between us. I know the show is a love story but I’m not sure how much of it they saw. They amused me at the interval by getting their flask out and a few snacks. Canny thinking and not quite as cheeky as a couple I once remember at the start of Oliver who began to eat their fish and chips.

On to the show. There are many excellent factors to this production- not least the storyline which I had forgotten about, so that was an added bonus. The singing was superb and the lyrics added layers to the story. The acting was natural. There was a lovely balance between the sorrow and the humour. Sharon D Clarke was superb as the fraudulent psychic Oda Mae Brown, who ends up with more than she bargained for. The technical side of the production was breathtaking. Maybe its because I was sat in the circle, or maybe because I was enthralled with the whole production (and I don’t feel I’m giving too much away when I say this- it is called Ghost after all) but how they managed to get people to walk through doors and disappear I’m afraid I don’t know. Or maybe it was the V and T that helped fuddle my brain at the beginning. I don’t actually want to know. The suspension of disbelief is part of the magic of holograms. I mean theatre.

I did say I would mention the pertinence of travelling on the tubes. In the play there is a subway ghost who is very possessive of the train he chooses to haunt. It got me thinking this might be a good place for me to spend my time, once it is up on this earth.  I’m not sure yet which line I’d choose but hopefully I’ve got a while to make up my mind. Although, as you’ll find out in GHOST, you never know when the grim reaper may strike.

I managed to keep a dry eye – almost, throughout the show. I’d stupidly put mascara on so actually I had little choice. But I’m sure the elderly gentleman in front of me was wiping tears away as the cast took their applause. And I don’t blame him. It was a heartfelt performance from all.

I made my way back to the tube really grateful for a night out that had been a gift. It had been better than I had imagined. 

The icing on the cake was on the journey home. A lady approached me on the tube and declared she was ‘totally in love’ with my coat. She wanted to know where I had purchased it from as she was determined to track one down the following day. I informed her, but failed to mention the exquisite lining that she couldn’t see- I’d leave that as a surprise.  Under promise, over deliver. After all, it had worked for me at the show. It also solved my dilemma about which line to hang around on once my days here have finished. I think that the Central line might be the place. The passengers seemed very polite and friendly. They also know a good coat when they see one.