Ghost The Musical
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
April 27, 2012
Ghost The Musical has Spider-Man Turn Of the Dark beat. Not only is it even more visually stunning than Spider-Man, its book and score are ten times worse. And that’s a real feat.
At least Bono and The Edge gave Spider-Man one song with a hook so catchy I can still remember it a year later. The only good song in Ghost is the Righteous Brothers’ hit “Unchained Melody.” Despite their impressive pedigree, song writers Dave Stewart (of The Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (who has written and produced for Michael Jackson among others) have concocted an unmelodic hodgepodge of sound-alike pop ballads that are only outdone by the torpid, lumpish book by Bruce Joel Rubin (who won an Oscar for the film’s screenplay), and lethargic staging by the usually reliable Matthew Warchus.
No, there’s not a good musical anywhere in Ghost, not even in a single second, but it’s certainly a feast for the eyes, with nifty designs and visual effects that keep you glued to the screen—er—stage.
Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman are Molly Jensen and Sam Wheat, embodied on screen by Demi Moore and the late Patrick Swayze, a young couple in red-hot love (though he’ll only respond “Ditto” when she says “I love you”), torn apart by his sudden murder during a mugging. Sam’s pesky spirit won’t leave until he can deliver the news that his would-be best friend Carl (Bryce Pinkham) is somehow involved. To do so, he enlists the help of dime store psychic Oda Mae Brown (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), whose own faith is tested by Sam’s arrival.
Fleeshman and Levy are a terribly good-looking couple; he’s a hunky and statuesque Brit (who does a near-flawless New Yawk accent), she’s a sexy bohemian blonde with ample cleavage. Stuck in cookie-cutter roles that are so devoid of any distinguishing characteristics that other people’s faces actually grace the marquee and Playbill cover, Fleeshman and Levy adequately act and more than adequately sing. What’s troubling, though, is how they look as if they’ve only just met, particularly puzzling when you consider how they originated these roles a year ago in the London production.
Randolph, on the other hand, gets the best material to play with—lifted word-for-word from the film—and she single-handedly wakes her fellow actors up, sinking in her teeth as deep as she can, making the character so much her own that you almost forget how Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for reciting the exact same dialogue. I blame Warchus for the sinister overtones that pervade Pinkham’s performance from the start, which shouldn’t really appear until later, though otherwise he does a pretty solid job in a thankless role. So does Michael Balderrama, who plays the murderer.
Illusionist Paul Kieve has provided the ingenious sleight of hand and optical tricks which allow Fleeshman to, among other things, walk through doors. Rob Howell’s set is a series of massive, shape-shifting LED screens onto which dizzying videos of New York City (designed by Jon Driscoll) are projected. Admittedly, it might arouse motion sickness, and, with Ashley Wallen’s standard step-routine choreography, it looks as though the ensemble is living in a series of music videos. But it is very cool, and you can indeed see the seeds of future scenic design being planted. Cinematically transporting viewers from location to location, angle to angle, set, costumes (also by Howell), lighting (by Hugh Vanstone) and illusions come together in a truly breathtaking sequence set on a New York City subway car. I won’t give it away, but you’ll know it when you see it. Why couldn’t everything else about Ghost be that heart-stopping?