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Theater Review: "Ghost" On Broadway

Katie Buenneke |
June 18, 2012 | 4:30 p.m. PDT

Theater Editor

 The Hartman Group PR
The Hartman Group PR
As the opening credits roll, it is immediately clear that "Ghost," now playing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, is not your typical Broadway show. Yes, you read me correctly: "Ghost" has opening credits. It even has a montages (cue the "Team America: World Police" song) and CGI people to fill out the ensemble. Part movie, part magic show, and part musical, "Ghost" is pure spectacle.

The musical, like the 1990 film of the same name, follows a young couple, Molly (Caissie Levy) and Sam (Richard Fleeshman). Their idyllic life is interrupted when Sam gets shot in a botched mugging attempt. Though he dies, he doesn't quite leave Molly behind; for some barely-explained reason ("unfinished business" or something along those lines), he is stuck on Earth as a ghost who has no affect on anything or anyone—except for a formerly fraudulent medium, Oda Mae (Da'Vine Joy Randolph).

As a musical, the show has quite a few failings. The book is so-so, and the score is hackneyed (but luckily, neither is distractingly bad, just bland). The whole thing is vaguely reminiscent of "High School Musical." But that's a comparison that works two ways—for as much as "High School Musical" isn't a good musical, it is still an enjoyable movie to watch, in a guilty pleasure kind of way, and "Ghost" operates under the same principle. Despite its shortcomings, it's still a fun experience. Credit is certainly due to the delightfully hilarious Ms. Randolph, whose Oda Mae lifts the show out of any and all doldrums it may encounter. Levy and Fleeshman also make a sympathetic couple, and while the lives of their characters do resemble something out of a supernaturally-charged Nicholas Sparks novel, they manage to share a heartfelt story with the audience. Though their circumstances are unrealistic, both do a good job of capturing the devastating (and aggravating) effects of being separated from each other, with such a tenuous connection remaining. Bryce Pinkham does good work with the character he's been given (Sam's friend, Carl), but one could wish he had more room to stretch his dramatic muscles.

The other stars of the show are the special effects. They certainly are something to behold! The story poses many technical challenges, and director Matthew Warchus seems to have created some more for himself in his staging. One of the biggest problems to tackle is the fact that the protagonist is, as the title suggests, a ghost for the majority of the show. While there are tried and true techniques for creating a ghost in a movie, doing so onstage proves considerably more difficult. With some clever sleight-of-hand (by Paul Kieve) and amazing lighting design (by Hugh Vanstone), the near-impossible effect is achieved. Rob Howell's scenic design combined with Jon Driscoll's projections create a surprisingly fleshed-out world for the characters to inhabit.

"Ghost" is certainly a departure from the average Broadway show—unless the only Broadway shows you've ever seen are "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" and "Phantom of the Opera," in which case I advise you to step out of your comfort zone. But for those unfamiliar with such spectacle shows, or for those who enjoy technologically marvelous shows, "Ghost" is certainly a generally enjoyable, and often astounding experience.

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