North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre’s small playing space and technical limitations make producing musicals a challenge, although past successes prove it’s possible. For “Ghost the Musical,” three leading players’ talents and the ensemble’s enthusiasm help compensate for the production’s compromises in staging this flawed script.
The 1990 movie, on which the musical is based, remains popular for its mix of romance, comedy, action and the supernatural. These elements seem ripe for musicalization, but Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard’s songs are mostly generic repetitions of what the dialogue has already established. The film’s screenwriter, Bruce Joel Rubin, wrongheadedly attempts to recreate the film onstage, resulting in too many short scenes jumping back and forth.
Nevertheless, the central love story is strong enough to propel the show. John Millsaps’ sincerely devoted Sam nicely matches up with Lauren Bamford’s openhearted Molly, their naturalness making the couple’s deep love quite moving. Both have attractive voices that can sell even the blandest lyrics.
The role of storefront psychic, Oda Mae Brown, can steal the show. Tina Morris-Anderson does so here, lighting up her scenes with laser beam personality and knock-em-out-of-the-park vocals. Her expertly timed punch lines elicit gales of laughter.
Jonathan Rand makes Sam’s office mate, Carl, a hiss-worthy villain, while Jarrett Bennett impresses as Sam’s assassin and as his ghostly purgatory host. Ensemble members energetically perform numerous cameo roles and choreographic routines.
Director/choreographer Chasta Hamilton keeps the pace tightly wound, sometimes too much so for dialogue clarity. Her staging is hampered by Jen Leiner’s cramped set, which tries to accommodate the script’s many requirements but results in actors awkwardly ducking under and squeezing through entrances and exits. The constant resetting of several locales by ensemble members distracts from scenes playing in front of them.
Jeremy Diamond’s lighting design seemed to be still in progress on opening night, with too many shadows and sudden changes. Elizabeth Anderson’s numerous costumes, however, are colorful assets.
The pre-recorded rock score pounds too loudly for this intimate venue. The casts face microphones also add harshness to the many anthem-like numbers.
Still, despite staging inadequacies and a too-complicated script, the production has its pleasures, especially for those who already know the film.
What: “Ghost the Musical”
Where: North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre, 7713-51 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh
When: 8 p.m. June 2-3, 9-10; 3 p.m. June 4, 11
Info: 919-866-0228 or nract.org