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A CurtainUp Review
Ghost: The Musical

I say it with my eyes
when i hold you close at night
when i make you scrambled eggs
when i tell you silly jokes
when i say you're always right

— Sam
Richard Fleeshman as Sam & Cassie Levy as Molly
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
It doesn’t seem to matter how many times the stage has looked to the screen for inspiration, or how many times that inspiration somehow gets lost in the process. Musicals based on successful dramatic or comedic films continue to pop up and pander with regularity to a receptive segment of a presumably pre-sold public. The collaborators on Ghost: The Musical have apparently decided that the best way to make the transition would be to dazzle the eyes with a constant display of visuals as awesomely devised as possible to boggle the least demanding portion of the brain.

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.

Ghost: The Musical
Book and Lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin
Music and Lyrics by Dave Stewart & Glen Ballard
Directed by Matthew Warchus

Principal Cast: Richard Fleeshman (Sam Wheat), Caissie Levy (Milly Jensen), Da’Vine Joy Randolph), Bryce Pinkham (Carl Bruner) The cast features Tyler McGee, Lance Roberts, Moya Angela, Jason Babinsky, Michael Balderrama, James Brown III, Stephen Carrasco, Jeremy Davis, Sharona D’Ornellas, Josh Franklin, Albert Guerzon, Afra Hines, Carly Hughes, Karen Hyland, Alison Luff, Vasthy Mompoint, Jennifer Noble, Joe Aaron Reid, Constantine Rousouli, Jennifer Sanchez, Daniel J. Watts, and Jesse Wildman.
Designer: Rob Howell
Choreographer: Ashley Wallen
Lighting: Hugh Vanstone
Illusions: Paul Kieve
Sound: Bobby Aitken
Musical Supervisor, Arranger & Orchestrator: Christopher Nightingale
Video & Projection Designer: Jon Driscoll
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes including intermission
Lunt-Fontanne Theater, 205 West 46th Street
(212) 307 – 4100
Tickets ($132.00 - $82.00)
Performances: Tuesdays at 7 PM; Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM. Matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM.
From 03/15/12 Opens 4/23/12
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 04/18/12
Closing 8/18 after 39 previews and 136 regular performances.
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Here Right Now (Sam, Molly
  • Unchained Melody (Sam)
  • More (Sam, Carl and Ensemble)
  • Three Little Words (Sam and Molly)
  • You Gotta Let Go(Hospital Ghost, Ensemble)
  • Are you a Believer? (Clara, Louise, Oda Mae)
  • With You (Molly)
  • Suspend my Disbelief/I Had a Life (Molly, Carl, Sam, Ensemble)
Act Two
  • Rain/Hold On (Molly, Sam, Ensemble)
  • Life Turns on a Dime (Carl, Molly, Sam)
  • Focus (Subway Ghost)
  • Talkin' 'Bout a Miracle (Hospital Ghost, Oda Mae,Ensemble)
  • Nothing Stops Another Day (Molly)
  • I'm Outta Here (Oda Mae, Ensemble)
  • Unchained Melody -Reprise)(Sam and Molly)
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