Book & Lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin
Music & Lyrics by Dave Stewart & Glen Ballard
Based on the 1990 film
Directed by Matthew Warchus
Choreographed by Ashley Wallen
Music direction by Christopher Nightingale
Produced by Broadway In Chicago
At the Oriental Theatre, Chicago
Over produced Ghost doesn’t work as a musical
After a weak 136 performances on Broadway in 2012, the producers of Ghost The Musical are trying to recoup their investment via a national tour which is here at the Oriental Theatre until January 19, 2014. At $95 for the top ticket, with a non-Equity cast of players who are both inept singers and shallow actors, Ghost The Musical doesn’t deliver on most levels.
It is always tricky when you attempt to take a terrific movie and make it into a musical. Ghost the Musical just doesn’t “sing” or “dance.” If your bold enough to make such a romantic film a musical, best you get someone to compose a stage worthy score. Unfortunately, the Stewart, Rubin and Ballard score is filled with bland tunes that (thankfully) are mostly unintelligible due to over amplifying with a sound mix that features mostly percussion.) Add a cast of vocally challenged leads that finds Katie Postotnik, as Molly, squealing and screaming through her ballads with Steven Grant Douglas shouting through his songs, and you have one of those Broadway pop-rock styled affairs that give singing a new experience. If you’re going to make a film “sing’ – best cast singers and have them articulate the lyrics.
My next problem with Ghost the Musical is the over use of dance. The lame choreography and manic movement combined with the blatant over use of video projections made me lose focus as to what is happening on stage at times. It sure seems that the producers believe that they must have dancing to be a musical. They forget that the dance must have an integral purpose in the production. Here it just gets in the way of the story telling.
But, the use of lighting that constantly blinds the audience together with the gimmicky use of video seems to indicate that the producers didn’t trust their source material. Perhaps they realized that their score was bland so they must try to use many films techniques to enhance the story? But the live stage isn’t film: the stage challenges us to use our imagination therefore we don’t need loads of flashy video and lighting effects.
Lastly, Ghost needs to be a romance wherein the power of love and the sadness with the loss of a loved one dominates. With all the flashiness, the romantic spark between Molly and her departed Sam never emerges making the story too low in emotional content. Add the over-the-top Carla R. Stewart as Oda Mae Brown, the psychic made famous by Whoopi Goldberg in the film, and we don’t have any of the charm and deeply emotional depth of the 1990 film with Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Tony Goldwyn. (I did watch Ghost on Netflix the day before seeing Ghost The Musical.) The musical didn’t even use the film’s powerful “Unchained Melody” pottery-making scene correctly to convey the raw emotional and sensuality of the Molly-Sam relationship. A lost opportunity.
The lesson here is: if your going to make a musical of a favorite film either use jukebox tunes or find talented composers and don’t rely on video and lighting gimmicks. Remember, the live stage is different from film – don’t try to be a film on stage. Maybe the real lesson is the film source material. Once, the film, became an even better as live stage musical. Unfortunately. Ghost The Musical simply doesn’t work on stage.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 8, 2014
Fro more info checkout the Ghost the Musical page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL, call 800-775-2000, www.broadwayinchicago.com, stick $27 – $95. Tuesdays thru Fridays at 7:30 pm. Wednesday, Jan 15 at 2 pm matinee, Saturdays at 2 & 8 pm. Sundays at 2 & 7:30 pm ( no Sunday evening performance on Jan 19), running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through January 19, 2014