Review: Musical adaptation of 'Ghost' a disappointment

CorrespondentNovember 13, 2013 

  • Details

    What: “Ghost, the Musical” national tour

    Where: Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham

    When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

    Tickets: $20-105

    Info: 919-680-2787 or

The 1990 film “Ghost” is an enduring favorite for its tragic romance, slapstick comedy, action sequences and supernatural elements. The stage production is a wrong-headed attempt to recreate the movie’s main scenes and special effects, short-changing the characters and supplying scant justification to be a musical.

Running just four months on Broadway, the touring version only confirms the problems.

The familiar plot follows banker Sam and potter Molly, their happy relationship destroyed by Sam’s murder. His spirit tries to warn Molly after he discovers that his co-worker, Carl, is involved. Sam enlists the help of Oda Mae, a psychic, who can hear Sam, to communicate with Molly.

Jon Driscoll’s projections are impressive, the giant LED panels becoming skylines and subway cars, as are Paul Kieve’s illusions of Sam passing through walls and villains being levitated by spirits. But what begins as dazzling soon becomes distracting, the frenetically changing videos and flying objects overwhelming the actors.

The film’s signature song, “Unchained Melody,” is cleverly woven into several scenes. New songs by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard include an affecting opening, “Here Right Now,” that sets up the characters and Oda Mae’s “I’m Outta Here,” a toe-tapping showstopper. But the others are slight and short, mostly repeating what the dialogue has established.

The script, by the film’s screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin, allows a few intimate moments, but it’s mostly a series of short scenes rushing from one locale to another, written for film rather than for theater. Director Matthew Warchus wrongly assumes face microphones take care of dialogue, and actors often face sideways or upstage, obstructing their expressions. The chorus comes out for practically every number, but Ashley Wallen’s choreography is simple, repetitive and not well performed.

The young cast is earnest if not fully seasoned. Steven Grant Douglas sings strongly as Sam, but his dialogue is often intensely at one level. Katie Postotnik gives Molly some lovely character moments but can’t always manage her songs’ demands. Robby Haltiwanger’s Carl is too nice a villain but Carla R. Stewart’s Oda Mae is hilariously wacky, an audience favorite despite her overly fussy characterization.

The production’s mild pleasures are best enjoyed by knowing the film, especially since the dialogue and songs are often inadequately heard over the amped-up orchestra.


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