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Fleeshman: Ghost role is “holy grail of musical theatre”

Published 23 November 2010

Former soap star turned West End leading man Richard Fleeshman is over the moon at the chance to take the Patrick Swayze role in Ghost The Musical, describing the chance to originate a leading role in the West End as the “holy grail of musical theatre”.

The Coronation Street star-turned-musical theatre performer was speaking to Official London Theatre at the launch of the eagerly anticipated new musical, which was held at the iconic Abbey Road studios, where guests and press were treated to performances of four of the show’s songs written by the team of former Eurythmic Dave Stewart and American hit writer Glen Ballard.

“We’re in Studio 1 at Abbey Road, there’s loads of press and Dave Stewart’s on the guitar,” Fleeshman said, while calming his excitement with a glass of champagne, “It’s one of those days that I’m just going to have to bank.”

Ghost The Musical, which opens at the Piccadilly theatre in July 2011, is based on the Oscar-winning film in which Swayze played a murdered boyfriend whose ghost desperately tries to save his still-living girlfriend. It is brought to the stage with a script by Ghost’s original screenplay writer Bruce Joel Rubin, music by Stewart and Ballard and direction by Matthew Warchus.

American actress Caissie Levy, who was recently seen on the London stage in Hair, returns to London to take on the role made famous by Demi Moore. “I’m thinking less about living up to [the film],” she told Official London Theatre, “ and more about honouring what was originally created and then making it work for the theatre. Undoubtedly it’s going to be different – obviously Patrick and Demi are not recreating their roles – so I think we just need to honour the genius that they brought to it and infuse it with a little bit of our own personas to try and create something authentic and truthful that hopefully the audience will love in a different way to the movie.”

Six-time Grammy Award-winner Ballard, who has written and produced hits for musicians including Michael Jackson, Alanis Morissette and Aerosmith, admitted he was worried when taking on the job, as he “didn’t want Bruce [Joel Rubin] to feel like we had corrupted his beautiful story”.

“The first thing Bruce said was that he just wanted melodies,” said Ballard. “I was attracted to that because even though I’ve been making pop records for a long time, melodies over the last decade have fallen off and less and less do you encounter real melodies on the radio or in the normal pop music world. I was really hungry for an outlet to write melodies, and not only that, to be able to write 10 or 15 songs, all of which relate to a central theme. It’s a whole lot different from just writing a bunch of hit songs. There was a richness to it and a complexity to it that to me was refreshing because I’ve made a lot of records and I’ve worked with some significant artists, but being able to tell a larger story like this is the most fun I’ve ever had.”

That fun seems to have rubbed off on the show’s stars – Fleeshman, Levy, Sharon D Clarke and Andrew Langtree – who were all delighted to be performing the tracks accompanied by a band including Stewart on guitar.

Producer Colin Ingram was also enthused, stating that even though a great deal of pressure must come from translating such a well-loved film from screen to stage, “there’s never been a point where we’ve thought ‘I don’t think this is going to work.’ It’s just been about getting the right people.”

“We want this to be something that’s here for a long time,” he confirmed. “ There’s an intimacy about the Piccadilly theatre and there’s an intimacy about this story. We believe with its passion, its comedy, its revenge and love that it has all the ingredients to become a great musical.”

MA

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