Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review of Ghost the Musical at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California


A stage musical based on the 1990 Patrick Swayze / Demi Moore tearjerker “Ghost.” Whoever thought of this might have suggested it as a joke, but it kind of works. We checked out “Ghost the Musical” last weekend at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California and it would have been ok if the production itself did not have major problems.

The plot of the musical is pulled directly from the movie. If you saw it 24 years ago, you will probably be able to figure out what is going on. If not, you might want to pull it up on Netflix or read the Wikipedia entry ahead of time because it is hard to understand a lot of what is sung here (more on this later). Pretty much, Sam is betrayed by his best friend, Carl, and is killed in this unfortunate conspiracy. He has to use his spiritual form to save his distraught woman, Molly, from certain doom while acting as the hand of god by making the bad guys repay all of their karmic debt.

This could be a wonderfully written show, with music by Dave Stewart (The Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (yes, that Glen Ballard), and a book by Bruce Joel Rubin -- the music seemed fine, but the lyrics were tough to decipher. The show has changed little since it appeared first on Broadway a few years ago; it certainly is not Tony Award fodder, even though the original film somehow brought home a few Oscars and a half billion in box office sales.

This 2014 version of Ghost is a touring production, and it is making stops throughout the United States. The creative staff have done a wonderful job, with veteran Matthew Warchus taking on the director role and Ashley Wallen doing a fine job with the choreography. Paul Kieve’s illusions, Jon Driscoll’s projections and Paul Weimer’s scenic designs were all first-rate, and were almost worth the price of admission. This fine crew used all of these pieces effectively and it should have been a very tight show.

The leads were very good, as they were convincing actors and good singers (not to mention attractive). Steven Grant Douglas played Sam, Katie Postotnik was Molly, and Robby Haltiwanger got to be the dastardly Carl. But, Carla Stewart’s portrayal of Oda Mae, the reluctant psychic, stole the show.

Almost 20 cast members were in the ensemble, and were the best part of the show for me. They were great singers and dancers, and a good chorus is the essential glue that holds a show together.

Mathew Smedal directed the 11-piece orchestra that was mostly staffed with touring musicians, with a few locals thrown into the mix. Keyboards were used extensively to help make the mood in many of the scenes, and I think the orchestra did a fabulous job, with the exception of a drummer that could not control his volume.

Ghost the Musical’s sets are first-rate, and were a little more complicated than most current musicals, and they were cleverly repurposed to achieve different effects and scenes. I especially liked the flyaway and swing effects.

There are some very rough spots in Ghost, unfortunately. The sound was terrible, and it may have been the worst that I have ever heard. The drums were overpowering, and the rest of the orchestra’s mix was cranked to try to match their output to the point where it was physically painful and the vocals were drowned out. Even then, on the louder numbers all that could be made out from the orchestra was the drums. There was no way that anybody in the house could understand the subway ghost. The producers should be embarrassed, and I think that in the year 2014 they could have done a lot better than this.

Also, many of the songs were sung with multiple melodies running concurrently, so that the lyrics were unintelligible, even on the softer songs that were not overpowered by the orchestra.

These things were deal-breakers for what could have been a pretty good show, and I have to say, “don’t waste your time.” If you decide to check it out Ghost the Musical anyway, proceed at your own risk. It is playing in LA through July 13th, and will then be moving on to Costa Mesa and Las Vegas.


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