If only it sounded as good as it looks.
Ghost: The Musical, which opened a six-day, eight-performance run at Bass Hall on Tuesday night, is dazzling in its use of projections and special effects to re-tell this romantic murder mystery, better known in its 1990 film form.
Fans of that hit movie will remember that it had everything: supernatural romance, comedy, tragedy and even intrigue. The plot deals with a pair of young lovers in New York, Molly and Sam (Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in the film). Sam is murdered early on in a botched robbery that we soon learn was planned when he unwittingly began to uncover some financial shenanigans at his workplace. So Sam becomes the “ghost” who must solve the crime and console his ladylove from the grave. To these ends, he enlists the aid of a wacky, pseudo-psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in the film), who provides all the script’s comic relief.
The opening moments of this musical version are especially cinematic, setting an appropriate tone for this wedding of a movie plot to the stage. The visuals, by video and projection designer Jon Driscoll, are brilliantly colorful and kinetic, setting a level of energy and drive that is well maintained throughout the production by Matthew Warchus’ direction.
The fluid motion of the presentation is made possible by a constantly moving set (by an uncredited designer) and an artful lighting design by Hugh Vanstone. And then layered on top of these eye-popping visual elements are a slew of wondrous special effects (Paul Kieve is credited with “illusions”). When people fly in this show (and they often do) you don’t see any wires.
So this production, presented by Performing Arts Fort Worth, gives you a lot to look at. And the show’s book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin, who authored the screenplay, carry the story well. In fact, the evolving murder mystery probably does more to keep the audience engaged than does the clay-molded romance for which Ghost is so well known.
But the shocking disappointment here is that the music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard do not soar to the heights of the show’s appearance.
Stewart, half of the long-missed duo the Eurythmics, which churned out one classic smash after another in the closing years of the last century ( Sweet Dreams, Would I Lie to You, among others), is a masterful composer, performer and producer. But the genius he has demonstrated so abundantly in the pop-rock realm is not apparent in this work. The score even lacks that big showstopper (or two) that every truly great Broadway show requires. The songs do a good job of moving the plot along, but surprisingly little more. In fairness to Stewart, they may seem more mundane because we expect so much (perhaps too much) from a musician who has done such fabulous work before.
In this touring production, Stewart and Ballard do not get much help from the cast. Like the tunes, leads Steven Grant Douglas (Sam) and Katie Postotnik (Molly) are adequate, but seldom rise above the ordinary. Some of the best vocals and acting are found in the supporting cast.
At the opening night performance seen for this review, the major role of Oda Mae was played by understudy Evette Marie White, who embraced the spirit of the role (if you will forgive the pun) but did not seem to be able to take the part as far as it could go vocally.
So this show will just about knock you out of your seat with its well-plotted and delivered visual effects. But when you get down to the basics of acting, singing and dancing, it is hard not to wish for more.