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Review: ‘Ghost – The Musical’ At Dallas Summer Musicals

Ghost the MusicalKatie Postotnik and Steven Grant Douglas in Ghost – The Musical on tour. All photo credits: Joan Marcus

The movie, Ghost, was a hugely popular film — it made more than $200 million at the box office, and that’s in 1990 money. It starred Patrick Swayze as a man who’s murdered but who still desperately tries to contact his fiancée through the spirit world. Two years ago, the stage adaptation, Ghost – The Musical played London, then opened and closed on Broadway. Now the national tour has come to North Texas, first at the Music Hall at Fair Park, courtesy of the Dallas Summer Musicals. Then it’s moving to the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. But in his review, KERA’s Jerome Weeks says for a ghost, this one’s pretty noisy.

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What’s the one scene anyone remembers from the movie, Ghost? The claymaking scene, right?

It’s the one with the Righteous Brothers singing ‘Unchained Melody.’ Demi Moore is a ceramic artist, and lucky for her and for her typical artist’s fabulous New York apartment, her fiance is a hotshot young banker, played by Patrick Swayze. It’s 1990, probably the last time a New York banker could be any sort of handsome movie hero.

In any event, the young lovers are at her potter’s wheel, with Swayze bare-chested, of course, and they’re getting their hands all wet and slick with clay. Then they move on to other body parts. Forget all the spectral (and now seriously out of date)  special effects and the murder-mystery story. This is the heart of  Ghost’s appeal: It was basically, an intimate, sensual, but thoroughly PG-13 romance.

So how does something that small get translated into a Broadway musical?

Ghost the MusicalNot the world’s most subtle performance: Carla Stewart as Oda Mae Brown with Steven Grant Douglas.

Well, Broadway director Matthew Warchus gives us strobe lights and and a rock ‘n’ roll concert scaffolding with spotlights that’ll suddenly swivel and blind everyone in the audience. We get a ton of video projections as well, some of the most sophisticated video you’ll see in a tour, thanks to designer Jon Driscoll. Everything is flashy and bright and popping and whizzing. And we get music that for the most part is kind of finger-popping and kind of forgettable and generic (having ‘Unchained Melody’ for comparison does it no favors).

Considering the nature of the original material, does any of this sound just a little misplaced? How about fundamentally misbegotten? But wait, there’s more. The leads in this touring production, particularly Katie Postotnik in the Demi Moore role, have those American Idol voices that are very popular these days, the kind that show how sincere and intense the singer is through displays of technical, tendon-taut ferocity. They essentially slam every note like a jackhammer. So not only is Ghost occasionally eye-stabbing to watch, it can be ear-splitting to listen to.

Some of the stage images are indeed lovely, notably a low-hanging cloud of umbrellas during a rain storm, their handles flickering like falling, shining raindrops. And then there are the much-vaunted magic illusions, courtesy of Paul Kieve. But seriously, some of these — objects flying through the air with no visible means of support — can’t be that difficult to pull off, when theatergoers have just had a wall of flares go off in their faces.

I shouldn’t make too much of all this. It’s not like the musical ruined a great movie. Ghost was always more than a bit schlocky. And classic musicals have been made out of second-rate material before. No one remembers the James Michener short stories that were turned into South Pacific or whatever the original source for Bye Bye Birdie was.

So I was still hoping for something — even if this is a non-Equity production and eight members of the cast are making their US tour debuts. A good reason to hope was Dave Stewart, co-composer of the show. That’s Dave Stewart as in Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics (“Sweet Dreams,” “Would I Lie to You?” “Missionary Man”) — and the producer for dozens of major talents from Bryan Ferry to Tom Petty.

But Stewart’s music is the final disappointment. There is only one possibly memorable number in the show. It’s sung by Carla A. Stewart, who plays the psychic who’s able to hear the dead banker — the comic role Whoopi Goldberg improbably won an Oscar for. In Carla Stewart’s hands, and under Warchus’ direction, Oda Mae Brown is a broad, hoodoo-lady joke, completely over the top.

On the other hand, the catchy, hard-driving number she sings has a chorus whose sentiments many people in the audience might well agree with: “I’m outta here.”

 

 

  • crazedfemale

    I was there. It was noisy. A half dozen folks around me left an intermission. There are some things that should never be made into a musical. The special effects were great, but special effects do not make a musical. The three leads were good, but the dancing office workers? I think not.

  • Saphronia

    Saw Ghost last night at the Dallas Summer Musicals — I left blind and deaf… and maybe epileptic. Imagine sitting in a completely dark theater with your eyes totally dilated and suddenly multiple banks of mega-watt colored spotlights are blasted into your eyes! At the same time ear-splitting music is pounding into your brain. You can’t even tell if it’s Good music, because it’s so loud, and the singers are screaming to be heard over the accompaniment. I couldn’t understand a single word of the songs.

    On the upside, the spectral effects were wonderful and very creative.

    When it was over, the person behind me said, “I feel like I spent an evening at Community Theater!” I do too.