GHOST THE MUSICAL | MDM Theatre, Moscow

Despite an initial short-lived West End run that left critics cold, Ghost the Musical has gone on to tour extensively both within the U.K. and internationally, bringing audiences who come for the iconic 1990 film, and stay for the emotionally-charged, pop-rock score and eye-popping illusions. This Russian-language tour looks and sounds better than it ever did in the U.K., lifted by two superlative casts (in rotation).

Spoiler Alert: Sam (Pavel Lyovkin) is murdered a few minutes into Act one and becomes – you guessed it – a ghost. He’s trapped to roam the earth because of unfinished business: who murdered him, and why? Enlisting the help of fake psychic Oda Mae (Marina Ivanova), Sam persuades his devastated ex Molly (Yuliya Iva) to help solve the mystery. Corny, yes, but I challenge anyone to watch the spectacular final scene without shivers of emotion.

Yuliya Iva’s powerhouse vocal and extremely tender characterisation makes her the undeniable star of the show. It’s unfortunate that, due to Russian-language casting, Oda Mae is white in this all-white production (Whoopi Goldberg played the role in the original film), but Marina Ivanova is a hoot and a clear hit with the audience. While some songs lose a thing or two in translation (for example, Molly’s Act two anthem “Nothing Stops Another Day” becomes “Tomorrow Will Be Another Day”), Ivan Rak’s sleazy banker Karl takes on a new level of machismo bite, with a powerful Russian vocal.

The standard of the staging, performances, tech (and orchestra: listen out for the moments of overblown, virtuosic guitar) is all better than the U.K. versions, so it’s hard to understand the audience’s painfully lukewarm reaction here. Maybe it’s the all-American soundtrack and setting; maybe it deviates too much from the film. But those looking for a taste of Broadway in Moscow, and a Christmas ghost story, the MDM Theatre offers just the haunt you’ve been looking for.

Ghost the Musical is booking till March 2018.

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