I'm a fan of Ghost the Musical. Or, well, I was. At some point early into the first act of this first national tour, I turned to my friend and said, "I'm so sorry."
Something happened between when I saw the show in London nearly two years ago and this non-Equity tour, now playing through January 19 at the Oriental Theatre. Here's what I wrote about the show two years ago:
Yes, Ghost the Musical is based on the iconic 1990 blockbuster, and has every potential to be a disaster, but they've managed to rethink the movie for the stage, and, for the most part, it works. Yes, the plot is still rather trite and the clay pot scene does make an appearance (how could it not?), but the show has found its own theatrical language to tell the story -- and it's jaw-dropping.
Most of the kudos must go to the design team (which includes a lighting designer, a video and projection designer, a movement sequence coordinator and, for good measure, an illusionist) who've done wonders to make director Matthew Warchus' highly technical vision come to life. I mean -- it's a marvel of a show to look at. I can't recall a time when my mouth has sat agape for so long. I may have drooled on myself. Moving LED screens, onstage holograms, smoke that comes and goes on cue. Wow. It's like being trapped in a third-dimensional world where virtual life and the afterlife are one in the same.
Part of my interest in visiting this tour is to see how they scaled down the massive design for easy load-in. For the most part, the basic visual concepts are still intact, but watered down. Gone is the complex LED screen system that envelopes and drives the action, and instead is a single unit in the cramped upstage. Holograms and illusions are still in place, but less expertly applied. Ashley Wallen and Liam Steel's strikingly angular choreography, which demands unfaltering precision timed with video projections, feels sloppy.
But the real issue here isn't the pared down production values, it's the cast. With few exceptions (most notably Carla R. Stewart who ultimately finds her footing as the scene-stealing psychic, Oda Mae Brown) the leads struggle to compete with what remains of the spectacle. Steven Grant Douglas and Katie Postotnik as fated lovers Sam and Molly are lovely performers who struggle to project beyond the smokescreen. And on press night, both seemed vocally unsure, to say the least, as they navigated the rigorous rock-infused score (lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin and music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard -- who've worked with the likes of Alanis Morisette and Eurythmics).
Without a dynamic duo at the center of this sound and fury, the show simply evaporates into the ether.