If you had just one moment to say goodbye to a loved one, what would you say? How would you say it? Would you use an inside joke to sign off? Or would you let the second pass you by?
Ghost, the hit 90s film that featured Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore hit a raw nerve with the story of Sam and Molly who find themselves in the middle of unshakeable tragedy. Sam is killed because of a so-called friend and Molly begins to unravel.
Sam races in his spectral state to warn her about the danger she is in but he needs some help. Enter Oda Mae (played by Whoopi Goldberg), a psychic out to con the bereaved who finds herself saddled with a real spirit. Their banter is the comical sheath that takes the edge off the grief-ridden story.
This week, Dubai Opera turns home to the musical version of the tale from October 9-13. It took Bruce Joel Rubin, the original screenwriter of Ghost, seven years to adapt it to the stage; it premiered in London’s West End in 2011 and has since been performed across the globe. However, in spite of its success, Rubin says he’s not writing another one. “I’m 75; I don’t think I’ll be writing musicals in my 80s,” he laughs.
Ahead of the show, we spoke to the Oscar winner, whose credits include The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009) and Deep Impact (1998), about translating the magic of movies onto stage, writing his own songs and his message to the world.
There’s not much difference between the two versions of Ghost in terms of plot, says Rubin. “But what’s happened is, in movies, you have something called a close up where you focus on a person’s face and you begin to feel sort of what they are feeling. In a musical, you turn the close up into a song.”
A tune that can convey heart-wrenching emotion, pain, hope — it’s a tall order, one that took some time to acquire.
“We had hired songwriters whose work I did not like, because I don’t think they understood the movie very well,” recounts Rubin. “I said to myself, ‘I can write a song as good as they are writing’. Although, I had never written a song in my life.”
The result was a reel of songs that outfitted the show perfectly — well, almost perfectly. The director who came on-board suggested a tune up by two well-known songwriters: Dave Stewart (part of the musical duo Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (who co-wrote and produced Alanis Morissette’s Grammy-winning single Jagged Little Pill). Was it difficult to give up control? “I had never written songs before so I was not so attached. I knew I was learning as I did it. I was a first-time songwriter so I did not feel badly that good songwriters wanted to fix them. No, I think they did beautifully,” says Rubin.
However, a star track didn’t ebb his nerves; that took applause.
“The first night that we showed Ghost The Musical to the audience, the audience loved it so much that I didn’t know how to respond to the roar of joy and applause and screaming and yelling that came at the end of the play was nothing like I had ever heard before. This play, you know, appeals to people in a very unique way,” he says. It’s an ode to love.
Rubin, whose oeuvre experiments with the elasticity of different dimensions; into leaps between the real world and the thereafter, between one moment in time and another; says his message is simple. He wants to convey hope. “A hope for humanity.”
This time around, it begins with a haunting.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to Ghost the Musical, which runs between October 9 and 13, at the Dubai Opera start at Dh250.
As a writer, you need to have a voice, says Bruce Joel Rubin. “I think so many writers write the way they want other people to have them sound; to make other people comfortable. And I think the most authentic writers are the writers who discover who they are and what they have to say to the world. I always tell my friends and writers, I always say, ‘you have two hours to speak to the world, what do you want to say.’”