`Ghost’ Full Of Spirited Performances
If you loved the movie, you’ll love the show.
That’s the question everyone is asking, right?
Heartfelt performances, excellent staging and great humor bring Circa’s “Ghost: The Musical” to life, and both fans of the film and non-fans are really going to enjoy it. I’m not exactly a big fan of the movie and I certainly recommend it.
It was canny programming for Circa ’21 to grab “Ghost: The Musical.” It’s got everything Circa audiences would want in a show – heart, humor, romance, compelling music and a nostalgic hook.
Based upon the mega-popular film, “Ghost: The Musical” pretty much follows the same story as the movie, which starred Patrick Swayze and his haircut and open shirts opposite a cutesy Demi Moore wearing overalls and a superstar turn from Whoopi Goldberg which made her a household name.
For those who have somehow not seen the film or are unfamiliar with the show, here’s the lowdown:
With its book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin, who won an Academy Award for the film version’s original screenplay, GHOST: THE MUSICAL tells the romantic tale of young couple Sam and Molly, whose romantic connection takes a shocking turn after Sam’s untimely death. Trapped between two worlds, Sam refuses to leave Molly’s side when he learns she’s in grave danger, and desperate to communicate with her, the now-ghostly Sam turns to storefront psychic Oda Mae Brown to help him protect Molly and avenge his killing.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie and despite having been forced to sit through it several times by girlfriends and wives past, I haven’t really changed my mind since its release. It’s ok. It’s not terrible. I felt it to be schmaltzy and corny, and in all honesty, I was expecting the same reaction to the musical.
But this was a case in which the live show transcended the film experience. Perhaps it was because I was seeing real people on stage, perhaps it was the subtle tweaks to the material, perhaps it was because it was two unknown actors instead of two stars that allowed me to connect to them more as people and characters than two huge stars playing roles, but I really felt a much greater connection and affinity to Circa’s production than I did the film. As such, I would imagine people who actually enjoyed the film will really love the musical.
And there’s plenty to love – although there is one thing in particular I would change.
I’ll start with the positives, of which there are far more.
The first thing you’re going to notice is the beautiful set design by Kathy Voecks. I loved its ‘80s feel (appropriate for an ‘80s film remake) – it had the sleek lines and geometric clean of a Patrick Nagel painting. It’s a minimal set, again, a nice ‘80s touch, when minimalism and slick design was king. It also acts as an attractive backdrop to the moving action before it, which is handled nicely by director Jerry Jay Crawford, who not only gets great performances from his actors, but does a cool job of blocking the action utilizing each sector of the stage and matching the thematic feel of each scene to its segment.
The performances are terrific. There’s palpable chemistry between Andrew Keeler’s Sam and Samantha Matthews’ Molly that echoes the same romantic innocence of the movie but somehow feels more sincere to me being presented by these people rather than the stars of “Roadhouse” and “About Last Night.” They become the characters, which gives the show a solid heft and emotional investment. Likewise, Don Denton is fantastic as the slimy Carl, who betrays both. Denton oozes with an ‘80s psychopathic greed that makes him easy to hate in the part.
Illy Kirven has the toughest path to take, jumping into the Whoopi Goldberg role, because it was so iconic in Goldberg’s talented hands. It’s not fair to compare her to it, so I’m not going to put that on her. She does a great job with the goofy psychic Oda Mae who becomes the fulcrum for the plot, giving us a likeable character and a lot of big laughs.
So, what was the one thing I didn’t like about it? It’s a pretty easy fix. All along you get the feeling that the show is set in the ‘80s, and that perfectly fits the set, costuming, characters and the music, especially the Up! Up! Up! Style New York Wall St. bustle tunes. And then, in one scene where they’re detailing Oda Mae’s record, it suddenly comes crashing in that it’s set in the present day, and all of the sudden it feels dated and those elements that were so fantastic in capturing a time seem anachronistic. It’s a pretty easy fix – just change the dates in the rap sheet to ‘80s dates, and all is right in this make-believe world.
To be honest, my girlfriend and I were probably the only ones who noticed that or cared, but, still, it just felt off to me, especially since one of the things I loved about it was its heartfelt homage to the ‘80s and its terrific nods to the time.
But, also be honest, that’s a pretty petty criticism, and definitely not one that should dissuade you from seeing this fantastic show. Yes, if you loved the movie, you’re going to love the show. But perhaps even more important to Circa in trying to expand its audience base, if you were meh about the movie or even didn’t like, there’s still a good chance you might like this production. I’m right there with you, and I loved it. Highly recommended.