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Full confession: The 1990 movie Ghost is on my top 10 list of that decade’s more shameless pleasures. Demi Moore with the Pierrot haircut and artfully applied teardrops; poor Patrick Swayze with his single expression of intense concentration; Whoopi Goldberg at her ghetto-fabulous funniest. What’s not to love? Turns out plenty in this leaden stage musicalization of the supernatural romantic thriller, a flavorless hash that is unrelentingly loud, vulgar and stunningly tone-deaf to the ways in which the world has changed since that era of sweet young yuppie innocence.
In addition to book writer Bruce Joel Rubin, who won an Oscar for his original screenplay, the creative team includes pop royalty in composers/co-lyricists Dave Stewart (half of The Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (the producer and songwriter behind hits from Alanis Morissette, Michael Jackson and countless others). They should be thankful they found a resourceful director in Matthew Warchus, because the material they gave him has all the substance and charm of wet ectoplasm.
The show’s saving grace is its dazzling technology. Jon Driscoll’s video and projection designs present a kinetic display of New York cityscapes. The train action in particular is visually exciting, along with the nifty apparition tricks.
But that’s about it for the good stuff. Rather than adapting his screenplay, Rubin has lobbed it wholesale onto the stage, often with huge chunks of dialogue intact. There are cosmetic updates: Artist Molly (Caissie Levy) and investment banker Sam (Richard Fleeshman) move into a Brooklyn loft instead of Tribeca, and the funds being illegally maneuvered by their treacherous friend Carl (Bryce Pinkham) are now $10 million (up from 4 for inflation).
But did nobody stop to think that investment bankers now rank close to Satan in popularity scale? “More,” an anthem to greed in which Wall Street brokers stride about and strike poses in Ashley Warren’s distractingly emphatic choreography, begs for Occupy activists to storm the theater.
Sam and Molly are bland and one-dimensional, primarily because Stewart and Ballard’s generic songs give them one number after another that are interchangeable variations on “I want it all,” “I have it all” or “I lost it all.” The spiritual adviser Oda Mae Brown (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) here fills the sassy black mama role in a way that’s become tiresomely de rigueur for a Broadway musical.
Yes, Molly’s pottery wheel makes an appearance. But it’s rolled out rather dutifully late in the action, and she barely gets it spinning. Sam and Molly’s hot-and-heavy make-out happens earlier, without the stimulant of wet clay but with Skinemax-style accompaniment from the projections department.
Venue Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, New York (Runs indefinitely)
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