For many people in China, the romantic fantasy film “Ghost” (1990) was their first encounter with Hollywood. The movie struck a deep chord with local viewers, just as it did with audiences around the world upon its initial release.
The otherworldly love story is about to be brought back to life again in Shanghai — this time in the form of a live musical drama.
Adapted for the stage by Bruce Joel Rubin, the musical “Ghost” will run from May 28 to June 14 at Shanghai Culture Square.
The show, directed by Matthew Warchus, stars Lucie Jones, a former contestant on the UK singing program “The X Factor.” The role of Sam, the ghost in the show’s title, is played by Liam Doyle, a veteran of the British musical scene.
So far, the production has toured 11 countries and regions since its premiere in Manchester in 2011. It has also been nominated for three Tony Awards and five Olivier Awards, including for best musical.
As a story packed with both heavy and light-hearted themes, the show’s producer Colin Ingram says “Ghost” is ideal source material for a stage production.
Struck by the emotional potency of the film, Ingram eventually sought out Grammy Award winners Dave Steward and Glen Ballard to help create the show’s music.
As in the movie, the song “Unchained Melody” features prominently in the production. The rest of the music though was created especially for the stage.
“‘Unchained Melody’ is a powerful song that conveys the emotion and intensity that Ghost is so famous for,” says Paul Warwick Griffin, the show’s assistant director.
A big challenge in bringing the beloved screen classic to the stage was meeting the expectations of audience members who are fans of the film, according to Griffin.
“It’s important for us to give them what they want to see and experience,” says Griffin, explaining that the film’s iconic pottery-making scene and ghostly stage effects were integral parts of the show’s planning from the start.
With the help of illusion designer Paul Kieve, audiences will watch Sam seemingly pass through walls and perform other ghostly feats. Meanwhile, lighting effects will also emphasize Sam’s non-corporeal form.
“Many people will focus on the show’s technical aspects. But ... I believe that the real reason for its popularity still lies in its emotional beauty — the idea of love surviving death,” says Griffin.
Having accompanied the traveling show, Griffin says audiences, regardless of nationality, respond in remarkably similar ways to its universal themes.
“As human beings with mortal lives, we have all lost somebody close to us as part of the normal life cycle. We are all scared about the idea of loss. The story keys into such a real place, regardless of language or cultural background,” says Griffin.
As for the show’s lead actors, Jones and Doyle have been personally acquainted for years but this is the first time they are sharing the stage together.
“It only took us one audition to get the roles. It seems that the directors were very clear about what they were looking for,” says Jones.
Although both performers had previously seen the movie version of “Ghost,” they have both studiously avoided rewatching it.
“I don’t want to copy anyone in the role. I hope that we can make it a bit different by bringing some of our own personality to stage,” explains Doyle.