THE LEADING MEN: Richard Fleeshman, the Soul and Body of Ghost The Musical

By Brandon Voss
16 May 2012

Fleeshman and Caissie Levy on opening night
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Not only is Ghost a beloved film, the role of Sam Wheat was played by a beloved figure, the late Patrick Swayze. What kind of pressure does that put on you?
RF: Initially, I didn't even think about it, because I was so excited by the possibility of doing the job. Then I got the job, and people started asking me about that in interviews and things like that, saying, "How do you feel about landing this part that Patrick Swayze made famous? You must be terrified!" I was like, "Well, I wasn't until you just said it." Yeah, then the pressure hit home, and I realized that I was holding a lot of responsibility. When you're taking on a film that people hold so dear to them, you have to be careful with that. Caissie and I were very grateful to our creative team for giving us the freedom to find our own way with the characters and not just become doubles for the film. But without a doubt, there's obviously enormous pressure, because you don't want people to have an adverse reaction to your performance. Now, after we've had really nice feedback for a year, we can turn that on its head and say, "Wow, isn't it amazing that we get to play Sam and Molly every night? How wonderful that we're the only people who've gotten to do that other than Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore." Now we just feel really grateful.

You were about one year old when Ghost was released. What's your relationship to the film?
RF: I didn't know it incredibly well, but when I heard about the audition, the first thing I did was watch the film. Now, of course, I avoid it like the plague, because I think it would throw me so much. Maybe one day, when I'm no longer playing Sam Wheat, then I'll sit down and watch it and freak out. Now I'll text Caissie, like, "Don't turn on channel 4."

Lisa Niemi, Patrick's widow, came to opening and said complimentary things about both you and the show. What was that like for you to have her there?
RF: I didn't actually know she was there until the curtain call, when Matthew Warchus mentioned it. To be honest, that was probably a good thing, because it would've weighed on my mind. It was an amazing thing to have her there. Obviously, it's such a shame that we weren't able to have Patrick there, but it meant the absolute world that she came and said that he would've liked it. She was very giving and very lovely to me. It must've been a crazy and very difficult night for her, but she handled it amazingly.

Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman in Ghost.
photo by Joan Marcus

After doing the show in the U.K., where you're a big TV star, how is the experience different to perform the role here in New York, where you're not as well known?
RF: It's really nice to come here with no preconceptions and just be a part of the show, which we're all very proud of. It's also been lovely for Caissie and I to have the continuity of playing Sam and Molly in London for a year and now bringing it over here with a new cast. The audiences are also so vocal over here, which is one immediate difference that I've noticed, but that just helps our show, because there's a lot of laughing, and we often get massive rounds of applause for some of the illusions. It's lovely to have that energy from the audience every night.

But now you're doing an American accent in front of critical Americans.
RF: Yeah, there's definitely a huge difference between doing it in front of 1,500 natives and doing it front of 1,500 English people, who were like, "Yeah, it was great." Touch wood, everyone so far seems to have been OK with it. I haven't had any hate mail just yet.

Your muscular physique has been a major part of the marketing for the show on Broadway. Was that also the case in London?
RF: I don't know about that. But there is that one kind of porno picture used in advertisements here, and I rang my mom and said, "Mom, I know you're coming to see the show, so you should know that there's a picture of me half-naked and having sex outside the theatre." It was an interesting conversation.

Would you say that Ghost has gotten racier for Broadway?
RF: What Caissie and I have found is that now, as actors and as people, is that we're allowing ourselves to go even further. There might be scenes that have gotten a little steamier because that's what happens after a year of getting more and more comfortable with each other. There's definitely more kissing.

It's one thing to have a passionate love scene, but yours is accompanied by racy film footage of your love scene projected onto the stage.
RF: I don't even think about that now, because we don't see it and we're in the moment ourselves, but the funniest thing was when we filmed that. We did it during week one of rehearsals, when Caissie and I barely knew each other. We'd met only a few days before. They were like, "We need to film this stuff, so you guys need to get really into it." It was pretty intense. The great thing is that we've never had issues with one another since then. It was baptism by fire, which was probably the best way to do it.