Review: Ghost on Broadway: Nostalgic and Tech All in One

Image Credit: Joan Marcus

Remember Ghost, the 1990 Oscar-winning movie starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg?  It was definitely one of my favorite movies back in the day.  I never would have expected to be converted into a play, but after seeing it I can tell why it has.  It has a beautiful love story and is full of suspense.

The music for the show was written by the collaborative team of Dave Stewart (half of the Eurythmics), Grammy-winner Glen Ballard, and Oscar-winning scribe Bruce Joel Rubin.  They’re a first-time song-writing team.  The musical hit the West End first and then came to Broadway in the spring of this year with its original stars Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy reprising their roles as Sam and Molly.  I’ve been kind of curious but wasn’t running to get tickets, wondering how the film would translate to the Broadway stage.

I’m glad I did. The producers recently announced today that the show will play its final Broadway performance on August 18.  While the play certainly isn’t one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, it offers very high-quality performances, particularly from its female leads, Cassie Levy and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, who steal the show.   And I can honestly say I enjoyed it, in a very kitschy kin of way.  It’s not first-class Broadway, but it’s second of third, which isn’t bad.

In the film, we met Sam, a murdered man who can’t pass over into heaven until he saves the life of his beloved, Molly, a potter.  Everyone remembers the song that was revived it the film by the Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” and the one scene involving a pottery wheel and Patrick Swayze wrapping his arms around Demi Moore’s as she created her art. That is what I remember most, but I clearly remembered the storyline to the point where as soon as his killer came on stage, I knew who he was.  It was a romantic, loving film, though I remember the murder and moments that were unsettling.  My companion at the show reminded me that the word “DITTO” was a key word in the film.  She even snapped a picture of a shirt in the lobby during intermission that reads “DITTO” and there is even a song revolving around the word. The word does play a big role in this show, but you have to see it to find out how.

On stage they’ve translated all of the love and tension of finding out the truth about Sam’s murder through a mixture of music and high-tech.  It’s a very multi-media experience with video, flashing lights and more.  At first, I have to admit that much of it threw me off a bit.  Behind the dancing which I really wanted to keep my eyes on, there were constant moving images of NYC traffic, the subway, the NY Stock Exchange, video of the characters interacting (when they were already interacting on stage).  I appreciate that the writers and producers wanted to bring a dated script from 1990 into 2012 using technology and various media, but it does go a bit far and was at times too much for my senses to take in.  Still the scenes of the spirit of ghosts descending to hell, the movement of objects and Sam slipping through doors as a ghost, and the final journey of Sam’s spirit to heaven are very interesting, certainly accentuated by the effects.

However, the actors managed to pull my attention away from the flash and zip going on behind them.  Cassie Levy, who won a Tony for Hair, sings her heart out and is a real star,in my opinion.  Da’Vine Joy Randolph is crazy good as Oda Mae Brown, the psychic.  She definitely seems to have taken some lessons in being funny from her successor, Whoopi Goldberg, and has a powerful singing voice that will knock you over.  Richard Fleeshman as Sam and Bryce Pinkham as Carol round the cast and both give solid performances.

Go catch “Ghost The Musical” at the Lunt-Fortanne Theatre, (located at 205 West 46th Street, Times Square), New York, New York before it leaves Broadway.  For more information, please visit:  www.ghostonbroadway.com.

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