Ghost the Musical had promise as part of a Broadway trend that has culled the depths of Hollywood films to turn into stage productions in recent years. Films that originally had music fare well in the transition, like Shrek, Aladdin, Mary Poppins and The Lion King. Films like Rocky, Catch Me If You Can, Bullets Over Broadway, Legally Blonde, Young Frankenstein, and others do not always translate well to the stage when they get “enhanced” with songs and dances. Unfortunately, Ghost is missing a key element needed for a successful transition – memorable music. The show, currently on U.S. tour, has likeable elements, but a successful musical needs likeable music, which Ghost lacks.
The musical, adapted by Bruce Joel Rubin from his Oscar-winning Ghost screenplay, incorporates a lot of the crime drama meets romantic weeper elements of the script. Two of the movies best elements are included – the comic psychic Oda Mae Brown (the role which won Whoopi Goldberg an Oscar) and the Righteous Brothers’ rendition of Unchained Melody. Unfortunately for the musical, as seen in Los Angeles, Oda Mae is the only engrossing character here and the Melody is the only memorable song.
The plot closely mirrors the movie. Sam is fatally shot while he and sculptor girlfriend Molly are returning home from an exhibition promoting her art. As a spirit caught on earth, Sam discovers that his friend Carl Bruner is siphoning funds from the bank where they both worked and Carl’s accomplice, Willie Lopez, killed Sam when attempting to steal Sam’s account access codes. Sam seeks help from psychic Oda Mae to warn Molly that her life is in danger and eventually set Carl up by stealing the money first.
The scene stealing psychic Oda Mae is played on the national tour by Carla R. Stewart, who is wonderful in the role. Unfortunately, she is the standout. Steven Grant Douglas tries hard as Sam, but tries too hard to channel Patrick Swayze. Katie Postotnik’s Molly avoids the comparison with Demi Moore, but also avoids the comparison with someone who consistently stays on pitch – Ouch! She tried earnestly and was good at times, but the vocal issues were overwhelming her performance. Carl is portrayed adequately here by Robby Haltiwanger, but without the sinister swagger of pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn in the film.
Besides Oda Mae, the other scene-stealers in the live version of Ghost are the visual effects and illusions as well as video and projection design to convey New York City’s skylines, Wall Street’s bustle, death scenes and other aspects that add more dimension to the plot. The scenes on subway trains are also well staged. In addition, the choreography with workers in suits, umbrellas and such was interesting to watch.
Sadly, the least memorable or likeable element in the Ghost the Musical was the music. The score from Dave Stewart (from the Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard is a bore. There is no showstopper ballad or number and nothing catchy to hum on the way out (except Unchained Melody).
For a pleasant diversion, Ghost the Musical works better than expected – although expectations going in were low. The glittering digitized New York, splendid psychic and other likeable elements made the evening at Ghost enjoyable, but not having likeable music is a liability for any musical. Just know going in that it is not Broadway at its finest. The musical will remain at the Pantages in Hollywood until July 13, before moving to Costa Mesa, Calif., from July 29 to August 10, and to Las Vegas thereafter.
Opinion by Dyanne Weiss
Performance June 29 at the Pantages Theatre
Ghost the Musical On Tour