Monday, April 23, 2012

Ghost, the Musical

"Ghost, the Musical" at Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, April 20, 2012

Posted by Mondschein

Yes, another Whoopi Goldberg film has made its way onto the stage, landing at the Lunt-Fontanne laden with scads of sparkling, flashy lights and some remarkably clever stagecraft.  Yet, like its predecessors (The Color Purple, and Sister Act), the results are mixed at best.  (Full disclosure, I did not see The Color Purple.

Bruce Joel Rubin's cursory book remains true to the film, telling the story of Sam (Richard Fleeshman) and Molly (Caissie Levy), young lovers parted by Sam's murder at the hands of a hired thug.  Unable to move "into the light" Sam eventually connects with Oda Mae (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), a two-bit psychic with heretofore unrealized abilities.

But you all know the story.  And there are no variations offered here, though a couple of plot points have been streamlined for time.

The quite hunky Mr. Fleeshman sings nicely as Sam, but seems to withhold his chemistry with Ms. Levy until well after his character is dead.  Ms. Levy's Molly fulfills her obligations, but comes up a little short.  Bryce Pinkham's Carl brings the strongest physical resemblance to his film counterpart, but fails to convey his attraction to Molly sufficiently.  Ms. Randolph finds the most success as Oda Mae.  She plays the role much more broadly than her predecessor, but in 1500-seat  Lunt-Fontanne, that's what's called for.

Director Matthew Warchus' staging raised a question or two for me.  In the penultimate number, the reprise of "Unchained Melody," neither Sam's nor Molly's face are visible.  If ever there were a time to show some emotion, that was it.  The rest came off a bit perfunctory.

Ashley Wallen's choreography adds little and reminds me very much of the scene transitions from 2010's short-lived Enron, when combined with the John Driscoll's video and projection design.  Not to minimize the impact of the video and projections, those added significantly to the visual.  The subway scenes worked especially well.

The score is serviceable, if bland, filled with more than the requisite number of power ballads, courtesy of Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard.  I would have liked more integration of score and book, with the music serving to expand character more often than not, rather than add to the storytelling.  I think there was a missed musical opportunity for something really interesting and fun when Oda Mae first shows up at Molly's to warn her.  It all felt just a little too safe.

Where this show satisfies are the visual effects.  Some are things you've probably seen before, but others are remarkably well done, particularly Sam's first time passing through a closed door.  The final effect is also noteworthy as Sam moves from this world to the next.  Kudos to Paul Kieve for his efforts.  (I'm guessing there's no Tony category for Best Stage Illusions.)

Ghost the Musical is on an open run.  Get tickets here.

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