Dallas — According to what we know from horror fiction, the sight of ghost induces screams from the humans who witness it. That’s pretty much what the performers in Ghost the Musical do in the non-Equity tour at the Music Hall at Fair Park, presented by Dallas Summer Musicals. After the two week run in Dallas, it moves for a week to Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall.
But they’re not screaming at the apparitions in this musicalization of the hit 1990 film with Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg. They’re yelling because that’s what the score by Dave Stewart (the other half of Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard require of them. Those two also co-wrote the lyrics, along with Bruce Joel Rubin, who adapted his own Oscar-winning (!) screenplay.
As many in the audience on opening night complained: It’s very loud. And not in a good rock-concert or even musical-of-a-rock-concert way.
The vocals are apparently so that the actors, including Steven Grant Douglas as Sam and Katie Postotnik as Molly, have no choice but to scream the songs, notably the first act-closer “Suspend My Disbelief/I Had a Life.” It’s worst in Molly’s heart-wrenching “With You,” which also went flat more than once during Tuesday’s performance.
Is this a trend with younger musical theater performers? Were they not taught that they’ll blow out their voices on this path?
The big attraction for this show, which was directed on Broadway by the usually on-point Matthew Warchus, is the illusion effects, created by Paul Kieve. Sam, who is shot in a supposed mugging and then channels his earth-bound spirit through medium Oda Mae Brown (a too-far-over-the-top Carla Stewart) to warn his girlfriend Molly of impending danger, gets most of them. He walks through doors, floats and, in one of the show’s best sequences, combats a dreadlocked Subway Ghost (Brandon Curry).
Many of these scenes are done with digital projection and lighting tricks. In the subway scenes, passengers float in the air and Sam and the SG engage in combat—flying, kicking and punching, all Crouching Tiger-like. It makes you mentally affix pop-art thought-bubbles above their heads, like the fights in the ’60s Batman TV show. Kaplow! Blammo!
In truth, most of the illusions are pretty cool, and are apparently David Copperfield-approved. But they don’t do much to save the cliché-ridden dialogue and, in this tour, the over-earnest acting.
Fans of the movie will be thrilled that the pottery scene is here, as is use of the Righteous Brothers’ song “Unchained Melody,” thankfully not in the same vocal chord-assaulting way the other tunes are. But if you’re looking for nostalgia for a not-as-great-as-you-remember movie, then best to Netflix it.