BWW Review: GHOST at Theater Des Westens, Berlin - GHOST scares up a star-making performance from former German 'Idol' Alexander Klaws

BWW Review: GHOST at Theater Des Westens, Berlin - GHOST scares up a star-making performance from former German 'Idol' Alexander Klaws

Ghost in Berlin's historic Theater des Westens, has almost every element needed to be a great evening of musical theater. The only thing missing in this musical is the music. More on that, later. First, let us give credit where credit is due.

The set, video and lighting design (Hans Kudlich and Michael Grundner, respectively) are nothing short of spectacular. The „ghostly" stage effects (designed by Nils Bennett) are surprisingly good and a few times, awe-inspiring. The script (in a very good German translation by Ruth Deny) was written by Bruce Joel Rubin, who was responsible for the screenplay of the 1990 film as well.

Slipping into Patrick Swayze's role of Sam Wheat is Alexander Klaws. In 2003, Mr. Klaws shot to fame in German-Speaking Europe as the very first winner of Deutschland sucht den Superstar, the German equivalent of American Idol. After having a few hit records, he made the move to musical theater and has played leading roles in the German productions of Dance of the Vampires, Tarzan, and The Manitu's Shoe, all of which were produced by Stage Entertainment. This is the first time I have ever seen Mr. Klaws in a musical. Mr. Swayze can rest very peacefully because Mr. Klaws steps out of his very long shadow and makes Sam Wheat completely his own. He sings beautifully and acts with nuance and intensity. He captures the physicality of being a disembodied spirit with aplomb. With Ghost, Mr. Klaws has broken the Idols curse and become a full-fledged star in his own right.

Berlin's Molly is played by the Dutch Musical Star, Willemijn Verkaik. Ms. Verkaik may be familiar to New York audiences, having played Elphaba not only in the German and Dutch productions of Wicked but on Broadway and in the West End as well. Technically, she is an extremely accomplished singer with a steel-belted soprano and a vast vocal range. Unfortunately, her strengths, both as an actress and singer, are exactly the opposite of what the role of Molly requires. Where Demi Moore was the warm, emotional center of the film, Ms. Verkaik's stage persona is both cool and somewhat aloof. As a result, there is very little genuine chemistry between herself and Mr. Klaws. Her performance brings to mind Ute Lemper or Marlene Dietrich, not Demi Moore. As talented as she is, she is simply miscast in this role.

Very capably taking center stage and stealing scenes as Carl Brunner, Sam's double-crossing business colleague, was Mathias Edenborn. While Mr. Edenborn was a little light on the „sleaze factor" needed for Carl, his performance worked very well as a counterbalance to Mr. Klaws' Sam. Rounding out the quartet of lead performers was Amber Schoop as Oda Mae Brown. Ms. Schoop has good comic timing and while her voice is excellent, she broke character in every single song and played straight to the balcony. She is a talented performer in need of a very strong director to shape her performance. There is tremendous potential in Ms. Schoop that is not fully realized in Ghost. Klaus Seiffert's turn as the „Hospital Ghost" and numerous other small roles proved that there are "no small parts, only small actors."

BWW Review: GHOST at Theater Des Westens, Berlin - GHOST scares up a star-making performance from former German 'Idol' Alexander KlawsThere's an old adage about musicals, "In a musical, not every song has to be a hit, but it sure doesn't hurt." On July 13, 1990, movie history was made. All that was needed was a pottery wheel, a lump of clay, Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore and the Righteous Brothers singing the "Unchained Melody." Many ashtrays, bowls and crooked cups later, couples all over the world discovered how difficult it is 1) to make pottery, and 2) to look sexy while you're doing it.

Therein lies the rub. If you are going to write a musical and put the „Unchained Melody" in it, you need compositions that can at least hold their own with that immortal song. Nothing in Ghost comes remotely close. When you leave a 2 1/2- hour musical and the only song you can remember is the only song not written by the composer and lyricist of the musical -- there is a serious problem. Ghost" has music and lyrics by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame, and Glen Ballard, who had a hand in the worldwide success of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Bad" (among many other hits.) With a musical pedigree like that, one would expect hit songs, powerful, memorable melodies with great lyrics. Instead, this very good script is saddled with 16 completely pedestrian and immediately forgettable new compositions. The producers would have been better advised to produce Ghost as a play.

Ghost celebrated its world premiere in Manchester England in March 2011. It made it's West End debut in July 2011 and closed in October 2012. The Musical opened on Broadway in 2012, and despite mixed reviews was nominated for 3 Tony Awards and ran for 136 performances. While none of the productions have been either a critical or a runaway commercial success, they have been successful enough to generate interest in a National Tour as well as larger regional productions all over the United States and in Europe. The Theater des Westens production of Ghost is a co-production between Stage Entertainment and the State Theater of Linz, Austria. Opening Night in Berlin was December 7th, 2017 and the show will be running until October 2018.

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From This Author Mark Janicello

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