Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ghost the Musical

Every time a nice moment surfaces in Ghost the Musical at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, it is quickly pushed aside by a tidal wave of swirling video projections and frenetic movement posing as dance numbers, with all tenderness overwhelmed in this loud, busy, high-tech adaptation of the popular 1990 movie.

 Director Matthew Warchus has pummeled the production with unrelenting special effects and choreographer Ashley Wallen with robotic dance sequences that serve no purpose in the story; in fact they harm it. I suppose the idea was to portray a fast-paced, impersonal New York, but Molly and Sam, the young lovers, get lost with images of stock market tickers, swirling cityscapes and expressionless, rhythm-less dancers. They disappear like ghosts, as do all the pop/rock songs (lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin and music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard) as soon as they are sung. The only song that stayed with me was the classic one associated so closely with the movie, “Unchained Melody.” That was going through my head for days, which was OK because I like it.

 Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman are fine as Molly Jensen and Sam Wheat. The story, when we can pick up on it (book by Rubin, who won an Oscar for his original screenplay for the film), is the same as in the movie -- Molly, a sculptor, and Sam, a banker, are sharing a loft. Sam is murdered one night in front of their home in what initially seems like a random killing during a mugging. Sam, as a ghost (now bathed in blue light), discovers the truth and must get a message to Molly that she is in danger.

 And that’s where the con-artist psychic comes in. Da’vine Joy Randolph is Oda Mae Brown, the character Whoopi Goldberg played in the movie and for which she won an Oscar. Sam uses her to communicate with Molly because it turns out she has more power than she thought when she turns out to be the only one who can hear Sam. Randolph’s scenes provide some laughs, but often her performance seems forced. Maybe she feels the strain of competing with all of those special effects.

Some of which are good. I especially liked seeing Sam as a ghost first realizing he can put his hand through the door. Paul Kieve's illusions are fun, but the use of Jon Driscoll's video and projection designs, played over Rob Howell's set, should be reduced by half at least.

 I also was impressed with the body switches. Thanks to Hugh Vanstone’s lighting and some seamless moves by the actors, a dummy corpse is slipped unseen onto the floor while the character, now a ghost, looks as if he is rising out of the dead body to stand and observe himself. That had a cinematic quality to it.

 But then, we don’t go to Broadway musicals to be reminded of movies, or at least we didn’t before so many shows were being adapted from films. In the case of Ghost the Musical, you’d be better off renting the movie and staying home, and saving your money for a new original musical romance like Nice Work If You Can Get It. And listening for “Unchained Melody” on oldies stations, where it’s still popular even all of these years after the Righteous Brothers made it a hit in 1965. “And time goes by so slowly/ And time can do so much,/ Are you still mine?”

 Bet I just planted that in your head for the rest of the day!

1 comment:

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