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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
GHOST
at the Lunt-Fontanne

BELLS AND WHISTLES
By PETER FILICHIA

  Caissie Levy/ Ph: Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Ghost isn’t a good musical, but it’s a good show. There’s a difference. Ghost dazzles with electronic non-scenery and special effects. It sputters with its generic pop score sung by a negligible cast.
 
Bruce Joel Rubin's 1990 Oscar-winning screenplay still works. Sam Wheat (the okay Richard Fleeshman) and Molly Jensen (the equally okay Caissie Levy) have moved in together and are in love. Or are they? Molly proclaims “I love you” early and often, but the best Sam can do is say “ditto.”
 
He’s preoccupied, and kinehoric – in that he sees disaster coming. Indeed, Sam’s murdered during a mugging. His ghost, however, will try for the rest of the show to get back to Molly and say “I love you.”
 
Rubin erred in wanting to write lyrics. Blame Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard for those, too. Among three guys, the best they can do for the opening song is “Here right now, here right now, this is what we’re living for. This is when we give into the moment and let go.”
 
They follow it with a song in which business men and women sing about their profession. “This is always such a rush sending millions with one touch,” they sing. (Today’s lyricists really believe that “rush” and “touch” rhyme.)
 
Having corporados sing about making money isn’t inherently musical. Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest says there’s “very little music in the name Jack” and prefers Ernest. This show proves there’s very little music in Ernst & Young.
 
Oda Mae criticizes “Ten Thousand Bottles of Beer on the Wall” as “a horrible song.” With the melodies Stewart and Ballard have come up with, they shouldn’t knock this chestnut.
 
The business people’s dance moves (by Ashley Wallen) are dull, but they’re enhanced by the “chorus” of electronic beings behind them. Gyrating silhouettes are just a few of the hundreds of images that thousands of lights create all night long. It’s eye-candy with Screaming Yellow Zonkers thrown in.
 
Once Sam is murdered, a character called Hospital Ghost sings, “There’s a tag on your toe now, you’re cold now” in another near-miss rhyme in what amounts to an ode to death. Then we meet Oda Mae Brown, a charlatan medium who finds to her astonishment that Sam can talk to her. Winning over skeptics provides some humor.
 
In The Colored Museum, George C. Wolfe mocked “the mama on the couch” who always seems to show up in black plays. Now in all too many musicals, we have a Big Mama wailing. The show isn’t over ‘till the Black Lady sings. The songs that Da’Vine Joy Randolph are given aren’t any better or worse than the ones her sisters have been getting for the last couple of decades.
 
And so it goes. But the effects in how ghosts move through doors and in the air are what really impress. At the curtain calls, 22 people bound onto the stage. When they’re done acknowledging applause, the electronic silhouettes make their appearance. Yeah, they should get the last bow.

 


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