BWW Reviews: Give Up this GHOST

BWW Reviews: Give Up this GHOST

Shows like "Ghost: The Musical" are the reason I have nightmares about punctuation (specifically colons when they precede"The Musical"). There are perhaps no two words that strike fear in the heart of theater critics quite like "The Musical."

And it's not because musicals used to be based on original content. The American broadway musical's origins are steeped in shows that came from other mediums ("Show Boat" and "Oklahoma!" were based on Edna Ferber's Show Boat and Lynn Riggs' Green Grow the Lilacs for instance).

Of late, "The Musical" has come to mean a new musical based on a movie. It's certainly easier to market a show when it is based on a familiar film. The punctuation and "The Musical" are added, I guess, so you don't come in expecting to see a film live on the stage only to wonder why your favorite characters are suddenly breaking out into songs you don't recognize or remember from your favorite film.

Let's start with what's to like about "Ghost Colon The Musical," shall we?

Based on the 1990 supernatural romantic film, the show features impressive illusions by Paul Kieve in which people seemingly walk through solid doors and float alongside levitating objects in a crowded subway train and love letters fold and unfold by themselves. The light design (recreated for the tour by by Joel Shier based on Hugh Vanstont's orignal designs) is dizzy and dazzling (though you may wish for a pair of sunglasses as Shier seems to relish blinding the audience by pointing banks of lights at them) and the high tech video digital projection by Michael Clark creeps ever closer to eliminating the need for much in the way of physical set pieces.

If it sounds like it's all smoke and mirrors, that's because it is. Beyond the spectacle, this non-Equity show is spectral; which is to say it has no mass, volume or warmth so much so you can see right through it.

The show's two leads (Steven Grant Douglas as Sam and Katie Postotnik as Molly) sing well enough, but just don't have the chemistry between each other that the original material demands. Carla R. Stewart has the thankless role of Oda Mae Brown (the part Whoopi Goldberg so memorably played in the film) and actually manages to find a few flourishes of her own.

Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) contributed music and lyrics along with Glen Ballard (Bruce Joe Rubin also has lyric credit, too). Given Stewart's pop and rock music pedigree, it isn't unreasonable to come into this expecting the occasional pop hook. The only song that stuck with me was "You Gotta Let Go" sung by an ensemble of ghosts in a hospital ward.

The musical's book by Bruce Joel Rubin that fails to offer any new insight into the original material (for which he won an Academy Award for his screenplay). Is it too much to ask that a screenwriter at least answers one fundamental question when adapting their screenplay to the stage? By one question, I of course mean "Why does this need to be a stage musical?" If you wish to delve further: what can you convey or relate on stage that you could not on film?

It was early into the second act where I realized just how lifeless "Ghost: The Musical" truly is. Rubin's book fails to illicit any genuine emotion here. It's a fatal wound, given the original film's death, longing and regret would seem to make "Ghost" an ideal vehicle for a musical. It's been handled far better before, though in shows like "The Secret Garden," "Carousel" and "Spring Awakening" (just to name a few).Compared to those shows, "Ghost: The Musical" doesn't have a ghost of a chance.

"Ghost: The Musical" runs through Jan. 19 at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph. Tickets, $27-$95. Call 800. 775-2000

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Misha Davenport Misha Davenport is a Chicago-based freelance writer, blogger, critic and singer. He studied playwriting at Michigan State University under the late Arthur Athanason. He has been covering theater in the Windy City for more than a decade at the Chicago Sun-Times and currently as a contributor to He sits on the board of the not-for-profit arts group Chicago Gay Men's Chorus and resides in Rogers Park, just steps away from the emerging theater district located there. He is a fierce advocate and lover of live theater from shows in 50-seat storefronts to big Broadway blockbusters.

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