The Sushine Ghost is a new musical from Andy Cannon and Richard Ferguson, directed by Ken Alexander and a co-production between Scottish Theatre Producers and Festival and King’s Theatres, Edinburgh with funding from Creative Scotland and other supporters.
Tonight’s performance at The Festival Theatre’s Studio was a bit of an odd experience for me as, although it is very important that new projects like this are created and supported in Scotland, for some reason it brought little Sunshine to me. Part of the problem is I think the original source material. This musical is loosely based on the 1935 British romantic comedy “The Ghost Goes West” starring Robert Donat and Jean Parker. In this film (as in our musical), a Scottish castle gets bought by a rich American, taken apart, numbered and crated then shipped across the waters to its new home in America where it is carefully rebuilt. An extra item has unknowingly been shipped too – the ghost of the original owner of the castle. The original film was hardly a classic by any standards, but like the original, “The Sunshine Ghost” is entertaining (even at a superficial level), and the story and songs do keep going without any energy drops through what seems far less a performance time than there actually is. The big problem is that the characters are all stereotypes with little depth – the rich American tycoon, the rebellious (you don’t understand me father) rich child, the medium, the Scottish keeper of the castle and the ghost, and this leaves our cast little room to move in at times.
Our cast, who all put in so much energy here are:
Andy Cannon Lachlan Douglas Hamilton
Neshla Caplan Jacqueline Duval
Barrie Hunter Glen Duval
John Kielty Ranald MacKinnon (the ghost)
Helen Logan Astrobeth (radio psychic)
Richard Ferguson Pianist
Part of my problem with this production is that I am not sure exactly where it is targeted at as a production or for an audience. This show is set in the late 1950s and is part comedy and part homage to all of those wonderful Hollywood musicals of the period and there are some very interesting musical ideas here. There are also times when there is an element of familiarity to some of the musical structures (hard to avoid doing I know). Overall, that feel of one of those light comedy musicals of earlier years is retained here, but for some reason there is a rap number in here, and far from making things contemporary, it just for me sits badly with the rest of the music. It is far more inventive in its use of words though than many I have heard before.
Standing out most for me tonight performance-wise was Neshla Caplan as our tycoon’s daughter Jacqueline Duval. Part of this is due to the fact that Neshla does get many of the better songs here and does seem to really be enjoying the challenge of their variety, and her character does have a little more depth to it than the others. Helen Logan as Astrobeth also has some interesting numbers, but unfortunately her character is just very one dimensional and hard to get that interested in. There are no weak performances from any of our cast here, it is just for me that there is little depth to any of the characters and to me at least, the plot was fairly obvious in its outcome with only a few variations in it ever possible. This is a pity as underneath the superficial surface of “The Sunshine Ghost” I can see and hear a great gothic love story with real depth of characters and real emotions.
There is also an interesting song here about our characters being rescued by the US Navy in the Atlantic Ocean as our castle is transported overseas and a song all about the specialist US Navy Seals unit. I think our psychic and ghost must have had a hand in this as the US Navy Seals unit was not formed until 1962.
Review by Tom King