The ghost of a previous tour of this musical at first haunts this production.
I last reviewed Ghost The Musical back in 2013 for its original tour when I was wowed by the special effects, clever staging of spectres walking through doors and 3D screens that were light years ahead of other theatre productions.
Fast forward to 2019 and this is a pared-down tour, but that’s not to say it’s lacking any of the story’s heart.
The first few scenes were a little slow but once the story gathered momentum, I soon felt swept up in the bond between Molly and Sam which not even untimely death can break.
Unlike other film-to-musical adaptations, this one is very true to the original and fans of the 1990 film starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze will revel in its famous scenes - potter’s wheel and all - brought to life on the stage.
Stripped back of the special effects, the spotlight is on the love story all the more. Rebekah Lowings and Niall Sheehy have a believable bond as Molly and Sam whose world is ripped apart when he is murdered on a street corner and the pair manage to make the roles their own, despite having huge shoes to fill.
Aside from the famous Unchained Melody track, music comes from none other than Sunderland-born maestro Dave Stewart, who penned the score with Glen Ballard, and many of the tracks have his trademark poppy hooks.
The stand out track is With You, one of my favourite songs in musical theatre, in fact, and Rebekah didn’t disappoint in her rendition of this achingly-beautiful ode to grief. I definitely had something in my eye at the end of it and we hadn’t even got to act two.
Despite this being a story of murder and deceit, there’s also light relief in the form of eccentric psychic Oda Mae Brown, who’s played in larger than life style by Jacqui Dubois.
She provides plenty of laugh-out-load moments as the charismatic chancer who turns out to have a genuine gift for communicating with the dead.
I was really impressed by Lovonne Richards too as the Subway Ghost who has a really commanding, Shakespeare-esque presence on stage, despite only appearing in a few scenes.
He teaches Sam how to move items in the real world as he pieces together the evidence and solves his own murder, leading to a dramatic finale with his friend-turned-foe Carl, played by Sergio Pasquariello.
In his final moments before ascending to the after life, Sam gets a few precious moments in Oda Mae’s body so he can hold Molly one last time.
Although this was executed with more smoke and mirrors in the previous tour, it still tugged on the heart strings and by the time he makes it to the pearly gates and tells Molly ‘the love inside, you take it with you’ I was sniffling back the tears.
•Ghost The Musical is at Sunderland Empire until March 16