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A CurtainUp Review
Ghost: The Musical
Notwithstanding the over-the-top circus elements that catapult Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark, I can assure you that there is no other musical on Broadway that relies as much on constantly streaming video projections on movable LED screens (the work of Jon Driscoll), rapidly appearing and disappearing sets (the work of Rob Howell) and quite a few ingeniously executed theatrical illusions (the work of Paul Kieve.) There is no denying that the technical team has created an excitingly refracted vision of New York, from its flustered Wall Streeters to its frazzled subway riders. Whether that is enough to spell success is questionable.
What puzzles me the most about the aggressively loud and egregiously labored Ghost: The Musical is what exactly Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote the sentimental/saccharine screenplay for the popular 1990 film, thought he might bring to a stage version? Rubin is credited with writing the book and the lyrics, the latter in collaboration with Glen Ballard. One might be tempted to hope that a score could bring additional emotional texture to the drama. The only texture one is likely to feel in this musical is the surface of the seat beneath you.
Certainly the film that starred Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore is already credited with moistening many eyes, but Dave Stewart’s (of the Eurythmics) mostly blaringly banal music only succeeds in testing the tolerance of the captured. Hard pressed as I am to say this musical version has few merits that extend beyond the admittedly stunning visual assault, the romantic leads, Richard Fleechman as Sam, and Caissie Levy, as Molly (repeating the roles they originated in London) are good-looking, move well, and know how to stir up the dead with their impassioned screaming — she more than he — of songs that rarely do more than make you want them to be over as soon as possible.
As the show has been previously (and more enthusiastically) reviewed by CurtainUp’s London critic(Lizzie Loveridge's review), it will suffice to say that the plot involves Sam’s return to earth as a ghost after he has been killed by a thug. His mission is to protect Molly from Sam’s villainous co-worker Carl (Bryce Pinkham). He does this with the help of a not-as-phony-as-she-believes-herself-to-be psychic Oda Mae Brown (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).
As you might expect, the performer who really brings the show to life is Randolph who (as did Whoopi Goldberg in the film) provides the most pleasure to the fantastical goings on with her winning, sassily projected personality — and by singing her heart out with a devoted a group of acolytes in the show’s most elevated and energizing musical number “Are You a Believer.” She manages to top that rouser with the hilariously performed “I’m Outta Here,” in which she fantasizes her life with ten million dollars.
It is a shame that the only song (also used affectively in the film) you will be humming when you leave the theater is the oldie “Unchained Melody,” by Hy Zaret and Alex North. That song also provides the musical with its one and only truly touching scene in which Sam and Molly are finally able to cling to each other in a tender dance in which Oda Mae poignantly serves as the medium. It is the one visual that could bring up a tear or two.
Director Matthew Warchus, with the help of choreographer Ashley Wallen, keeps the living and the dead moving efficiently between two worlds. Perhaps being neither all here nor all there is exactly how we are supposed to feel about Ghost The Musical.
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free
Anything Goes Cast Recording
Our review of the show
Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show