If you know the movie version of Ghost you’ll be aware of some special effects that give the impression that Sam Wheat (played in the movie by Patrick Swayze) is a ghost: effects such as the ability to pass through doors. It looks good in the movie, but recreating this for live theatre is no easy task.

The “magic” of Ghost the Musical is all thanks to the work of multi award winning illusionist Paul Kieve. Kieve was the consultant to the Harry Potter films and the movie Hugo. He was also on the creative team for the musicals Pippin and Matilda the Musical. Kieve says the most important thing for an illusionist is to be called in very early in the creative process, as the entire set design may revolve around the way the illusions will be created. While some of the illusions are not difficult to work out how they are done, they remain impressive in just how well they are executed.

Watching Ghost the Musical for a second time, I knew where to look and when, rather than be deliberately distracted by the main action, but these illusions are smooth and fast even you are watching for them. There’s just one illusion that has me gobsmacked. It also receives a thunderous applause from the appreciative audience. It’s the moment when Sam (played by Rob Mills) realises he can pass through a door.

Paul Kieve

Paul Kieve

I talked with with illusionist Paul Kieve about this particular illusion in the show and while I didn’t expect him to explain how this is done, he did show me a different view of this special moment. Taking out his iphone, Kieve pulled out footage he had recorded from side stage of the moment Sam Wheat (Rob Mills) passes through the door. He said it’s important that the hand is the final thing to go through and he had recorded the action to ensure Mills had his hand in the right position to create the best effect.  The footage was taken from side stage in the wings. There was nothing between the camera and the door and it was closer than any audience member will ever get. I was left even more gobsmacked than before! Kieve knew I would be.

While I don’t have this particular footage to share with you (that’s still on Kieve’s phone) this is an online interview with Paul Kieve from a few years ago that shows part of that magical moment as it appears in the musical.

Apparently I’m not the only one left in awe. Renowned illusionist David Copperfield’s response to seeing Ghost the Musical was to tweet this to the world, “It’s rare for me to experience wonder but my friend Paul Kieve gave me that experience for an illusion he created in Ghost.”

Yes, even David Copperfield was impressed. Kieve says many illusionists have come to see Ghost the Musical just for the illusions and special effects. Watching the close up footage I still have no idea how this particular illusion is actually done, but it certainly does help the audience suspend their disbelief for a couple of hours and simply just believe.

Ghost the Musical is now playing at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District until March 13th before moving to Sydney.

For more information and tickets: http://www.ghostthemusical.com.au/

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