PHOTO: Katie Postotnik and Steven Grant Douglas are featured in the touring production of “Ghost The Musical.” Production photo
SPOILER ALERT. This critique contains many plot giveaways if you haven’t seen the movie.
Creative: Book and lyrics – Bruce Joel Rubin, music and lyrics – Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard; director – Matthew Warchus, choreographer – Ashley Wallen, music director – Matthew Smedal.
Cast: Sam Wheat, Steven Grant Douglas; Molly Jenson, Katie Postotnik; Oda Mae Brown, Carla R. Stewart; Carl Bruner, Robby Haltiwanger; Willie Lopez, Fernando Contreras; Subway Ghost, Brandon Curry; Clara, Evette Marie White; Louise, Lydia Warr; Mrs. Santiago, Hana Freeman; Ortisha, Shannan E. Johnson; ensemble, Fernando Contreras, Brandon Curry, Hana Freeman, Shannan E. Johnson, Omar Garibay, Susan Leilanni Gearou, Tony Johnson, Beth Stafford Laird, Ben Laxton, Jake Vander Linden, Michael McClure, Jack O’Brien, Andrea Rouch, Maria Cristina Slye, Lyda Warr, Evette Marie White.
“Here Right Now” – Molly, Sam, Carl
“Unchained Melody” – Sam
“More” – Carl, Ensemble
“Three Little Words” – Molly, Sam
“You Gotta Let Go” – Hospital Ghost, Ensemble
“Sam’s Lament” – Sam
“Are You a Believer?” – Clara, Louise, Mrs. Santiago, Oda Mae
“With You” – Molly
“Suspend My Disbelief”/“I Had a Life” – Molly, Carl, Sam, Ensemble
“Rain”/“Hold On” – Molly, Sam, Ensemble
“Unchained Melody (Reprise)” - The Righteous Brothers, Sam
“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, Molly
The story is fascinating in a what-if way. What if a guy gets murdered and comes back as a ghost because there’s unfinished business, like telling his live-in girlfriend, “I love you.” If you want to puke at the sappiness in that, that’s okay by me. It is what it is in the story. It’s interesting seeing Sam, the murdered guy, learn the ropes of ghost-dom and weave his way through the living world and finally find a medium through which he can communicate with his true love, Molly. Sam runs into other ghosts, with ones he meets in the hospital and on the subway especially intriguing. I found myself morbidly curious about the handling of death and transformation. Suddenly, ghost characters stand outside their mortal remains and consider what’s happened. The scene is eerie and chilling and effective each time. That’s one thing that works in “Ghost The Musical.”
What also works is the depiction of an urban setting – all rush, rush, rush, and flash and action and drive and soul sucking. The projected designs and metropolis landscapes are part of a splash of special effects. The surging city and the hocus pocus of Sam and other ghosts are fused into the energy of the show, with dance (sometimes extraneous) also part of the muscle.
Illusions are important. With movies, everything is an illusion. On stage, illusions are much tougher to pull off because the fakery is easy to spot. “Ghost the Musical” does a good job of creating illusion through a bundle of techniques – sleight of hand, suspending people, moving through doors, transforming bodies, and so on.
The music style is often rock, coming from Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and Glen Ballard of multiple hit songs. In “Ghost The Musical,” the style is limiting. When Katie Postotnik expresses the deep love Molly has for Sam, she shout-sings. The singing fits the style, but that style to me is shallow compared with so much that the rest of the musical theater world offers. When Steven Grant Douglas gets wound up as Sam, his voice similarly is overwrought. Molly and Sam’s songs come with the volume cranked up, as is VOLUME helps the audience feel the intensity of the characters’ emotions. Duh, no. Also, the volume of the overture is way out of line too high.
The production also has pleasures. Carla R. Stewart, as Oda Mae – the medium, a psychic – is spot on. The poke-in-the-eye colors of her clothes fit her vivid humor, confusion and street-wise sass. Her full-blast production number, “I’m Outta Here,” is among the best things going in the show. Performances of dark characters brightened my experience – Robby Haltiwanger as the two-faced office whiz, Fernando Contreras as the hit man and Brandon Curry as the Subway Ghost with extra powers. The subway scenes impress with their speedy theatricality.
The ending is not impressive. What musical ends without a song? “Ghost the Musical” ends with the oft-repeated “Unchained Melody” well past. The wonderful song – “Oh my love, My darling, I’ve hungered for your touch, A long lonely time” – is sung not particularly well throughout the show, except when heard on the radio by The Righteous Brothers.
VENUE: Thrivent Financial Hall is the main theater of Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on
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