Dreadful, Disappointing GHOST: THE MUSICAL Makes an Appearance at PPAC
There are many good rules pertaining to the creation of a new Broadway musical. Two of them are, 1) Just because you have the technology to do something doesn't necessarily mean that you should do it and 2) Some movies just shouldn't be made into musicals. The first U.S. national tour of Ghost: The Musical, playing at Providence Performing Arts Center, is a good example of what happens when both of those are thrown out the window.
It's impossible to say who is responsible for this show, which can at best be called a hot mess. From start to finish, the entire thing is completely over-produced in every way. It's almost as if, during production meetings, every single idea was given the go ahead and then kept in the final product, without anyone ever suggesting that maybe they should cut back or take something out. The way-too-long show is beyond over the top. It's like taking the source material, the movie Ghost, putting it in a blender with an orchestra, a rock concert and a Vegas magic act, then throwing the whole thing up against the wall like you're Jackson Pollock.
Problems arise as soon as the show begins, with a ridiculous sequence of projections and videos, basically an on-stage version of a movie's opening credits, but way more overblown and obnoxious. The worst part is that the videos and projections never stop. They are constantly happening, throughout the entire play, becoming incredibly distracting. While video and projections can be great, when they serve a purpose, these really don't. They rarely do anything to actually advance or tell the story.
That story is, of course, the whole point. Unfortunately, this production drowns out the well-known story of a young couple who are deeply in love and then torn apart when the man is killed during a robbery. The man, Sam, remains on earth as a ghost, trying to protect his love, Molly, and solve his own murder, with the help of a psychic medium named Oda Mae.
In the movie, those characters are likable, relatable and sympathetic. The musical turns them into annoying, whining, unlikable people, for the most part. But there seems to be little concern given to anything the characters actually feel or do, the only real reason for this musical to exist seems to be for the creative team to show off their technical know-how and ability to create theatrical illusions. For example, the opening sequence filled with lots of lights and sound exists primarily to make sure the audience really, really understands that Sam and Molly love each other. There are many other, better ways to get that point across, ways that rely on characters and dialogue rather than video, projections and special effects. But, in this case, Sam and subtlety are both dead.
To the show's credit, there are some astounding theatrical tricks and illusions. Things happen onstage that you are likely to never see in any other show. Often, though, they are unnecessarily over the top. The perfect example is the scene where Sam fights with another ghost on a subway train. The subway scene goes on forever and the way it's performed is extremely hard to follow. Certainly, there were easier ways to create the scene which would have served the story better while not putting the audiene through the ringer.
Another strange thing is the inconsistencies in how some of the tricks and illusions are played out. In almost every scene, Sam is there, on stage, creating the fantastic things that happen. Then, all of a sudden and for no reason, two pivoltal scenes toward the end feature him offstage, doing a voiceover, while the ghostly happenngs go on without him. It's an odd choice and again makes it seem like the creators of the show were more interested in showing of their cool tricks than they were in telling a character's story.
Towards the very end, things get stranger when the technical wizards behind the show seem to just give up. Or they have decided that they, like the audience, are just too tired and they stop trying to amaze. Minor spoiler alert here, a scene where Sam takes over the body of Oda Mae, so he can interact with Molly, includes a "transformation" that's created onstage through an incredibly cheap and easy trick. Shortly thereafter, when the villain gets his due, there is no attempt at all to simulate what happens in the movie. They seem to have lost the will, or the budget, to try that, and completely change how the villian is dispatched.
In case you are wondering, there are actors in this show as well. Steven Grant Doulas plays Sam, and manages to take the strong character and make him very weak and annoying. The high-pitched singing voice and the terrible song lyrics don't help him out. Katie Postotnik fares much better, partly due to the fact that she has a gorgeous singing voice and a couple of nice solo singing moments. Tops among the cast is easily Carla R. Stewart as Oda Mae. She brings tons of energy and charisma to the role and provides all of the moments of real fun. She could slow down a bit, though, as she seemed to often be trying to hurry up and get to the funny part.