How I put a new spin on a movie classic

Forget writing a No 1 hit – composing Ghost: The Musical is the toughest gig in town, says Eurythmics star Dave Stewart

There's nothing quite like the massive onslaught that comes with pulling a musical together. I've made a lot of records, collaborated with different singers and worked on music for television and movies, but nothing prepared me for writing songs for musicals.

Although I'd worked on the musical version of Barbarella, an extremely complicated project by virtue of being all in German, working on Ghost (in English) still felt like mastering the Rubik's Cube; sometimes you need to write songs that propel the story forward, sometimes songs that get an emotion across, and sometimes the songs have to weave in and out of each other.

The success of the original 1990 movie was down to its story – it's so emotional and compelling. When I was approached by the producers and asked to write the songs and music for a musical version, I thought it was absolutely crucial to have Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote the original screenplay, on board.

I didn't want to be making something that wandered too far from his original story; a story which is ultimately about how important it is to understand the moment you're in, to not be crushed by whatever it was in your past that stops you from being able to share your love. I wanted that to remain intact, and I think it does.

Having met Bruce and found him to be a lovely and interesting man, I said that I would love to get involved and decided to bring my good friend, Glen Ballard on board too.

As a result, the sound and feel of the music in Ghost is a mixture of Glen and me. Does it sound like any of my other work? There are definitely sections where you can hear that I have tipped my hat to certain elements of my musical past. During the New York bank scene you can hear Eurythmics-style electronica mixed in with real string players.

Thinking about it, musicals are what got me into music in the first place. When I started to play the guitar at 13 or 14 years old it was all about Bob Dylan, of course. But my interest in music really began when I was around four or five years old. I remember that my father built a sort of radiogram that went all over our house. He took some wooden speakers and wired them up in the corners of my bedroom and my brother's bedroom, as well as in the kitchen and the living room.

Although we lived in a terraced bungalow in Sunderland, the day he switched on these little wooden sound boxes, the whole house became a magical place. Every single morning before school, we'd listen to music, loud and clear.

And the music he played was always from musicals: The King and I, The Sound of Music and The Flower Drum Song. Before I had ever seen the movies or the plays, I used to stare at the album covers and imagine them. Then when I was around seven or eight years old, I remember seeing South Pacific for the first time on the screen and being gobsmacked. I spilled my sweets and popcorn all over the floor.

When it's done well, putting music and theatre together can be transfixing. I would very much like to continue experimenting with music and theatre, bringing new ideas to it and collaborating with great people. I'm wary, though, because the collaborative experience on Ghost has been so great. With such a great team working on such a compelling story, I think we have created something really quite unique.

'Ghost: The Musical' , Piccadilly Theatre , London W1 (0844 871 7618) to 28 January

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star