With dazzling technology, Ghost the Musical opened at the Durham Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, Nov. 12, to a large crowd and broke hearts with its incredible love story all over again. Few movies make it to the stage with the same impact that audiences felt during the original screen version, yet Ghost defies the odds, and leaves theatergoers feeling like they’d just entered the next dimension in modern musicals.
The show opens with a series of scrims onstage that reflect both the characters and the sets, creating a vision of New York without the moving set pieces that would have been necessary in a traditional musical. Instead, thrilling scenes of NYC’s streets provide a realistic view of the city that bridges the gap between screen and stage in a high-tech manner that’s both exciting and ingenious.
The story about how love transcends life is told through the eyes of Sam (Steven Grant Douglas) and Molly (Katie Postotnik), a couple who are attacked one night as they return from a romantic dinner. Sam is left dead on the street, but his ghost is trapped in a nether-world. The tension in the tale arises when Sam discovers that Molly is in danger. In his struggle to protect his love, Sam must face other ghosts, as well as the heartbreak of finding out that his best friend, Carl Bruner (Robby Haltiwanger), is actually responsible for the mugging.
In the screen version of Ghost, film buffs will remember the chemistry between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, and expect that their Sam and Molly will be repeated onstage in this musical version. Though the chemistry between Steven Douglas and Katie Postotnik is evident, particularly in the scene where she sits in front of her potter’s wheel and Sam (the ghost) attempts to let her know he’s still there, it is not as heart-rendering as Swayze and Moore’s sizzling moments. However, there are moments in the stage version that are actually better than the screen. For example, the Subway Ghost (Brandon Curry) was played in the movie by Vincent Schiavelli; but Curry’s energetic, dreadlocked and angry Subway Ghost is much more effective — and scary.
Another actress who rivals the Oscar®-award-winning version is Carla R. Stewart’s Oda Mae Brown. To compete against the memory of Whoopi Goldberg’s version is a monumental task; but Stewart’s wacky, yet lovable, Oda Mae, the con-artist/psychic, elicited delighted laughter from the audience. Her timing was impeccable, her voice strong, and her comedic moments effective.
But the key moments in any romance are the lead couple; and in a musical, their voices must soar above all others. Steven Douglas’s strongest moments occurred during the duos with Katie Postotnik, where he carries her with his much richer voice. When he sings “I Had a Life,” you can feel the frustration and pain that he’s realized being between two worlds; and when he jokes around during the first version of “Unchained Melody,” he is quite lovable and romantic. Postotnik, on the other hand, hit a number of sharp or flat notes throughout her solos; and there were times when her voice did not carry to the audience. On Tuesday night, Postotnik’s solos did not measure up to several other versions of the soongs sung by other actresses, so it was not the songs that were “off” but Postotnik herself. In a romantic musical such as this, the female lead’s voice must soar and be as powerful as her male counterpart’s. Unfortunately, Postotnik’s was not.
The play itself is well worthy of its five Olivier Award nominations and three Tony Award® nominations. The special effects alone are reason enough to visit this production. The music and lyrics written by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard reflect the timeless tale admirably, especially since the original “Unchained Melody” was kept intact as the centerpiece of the story.
This U.S. National Tour of the production is destined to be one of this season’s favorites of DPAC‘s SunTrust Broadway Series. If you can find a ticket, treat yourself to this brilliant and exciting show.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 13th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/entertainment/x2082481368/REVIEW-Ghost-the-Musical-has-cool-effects-good-story and Nov. 7th interview with Carla R. Stewart, conducted by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/showcase/x2082479552/Oda-Mae-role-in-Ghost-the-Musical-is-larger-than-life (Note You must register to read this article); Nov. 13th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/11/13/3367846/theater-review-ghost.html; Nov. 7th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh interview with Robby Haltiwanger, conducted by Larisa Mount: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interviews-GHOSTs-Robby-Haltiwanger-Talks-Upcoming-DPAC-Engagement-20131107; and Nov. 6th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Zack Smith: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/ghost-the-musical/Event?oid=3702209. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 16th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2013/11/ghost-the-musical-at-dpac-sets-the-classic-cinematic-paranormal-romance-to-music/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents GHOST THE MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14, 8 p.m. Nov. 15, 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 16, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco District.
TICKETS: $37.75-$116.25 (including fees).
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1500495.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw5a5beiLSw.
THE TOUR: http://www.ghostontour.com/ (official website).
TOUR CAST: http://www.ghostontour.com/cast/.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.ghostontour.com/creative/.
SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC.
DPAC CONTENT ADVISORY: “Parental guidance [is] suggested. This show contains material that parents may find unsuitable for younger children.”
Ghost (1990 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/76186/Ghost/ (TCM Movie Database), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_(1990_film) (Wikipedia), and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099653/ (Internet Movie Database).
Ghost the Musical (2011 West End and 2012 Broadway musical): http://www.ghostthemusical.com/ (official website), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_the_Musical (Wikipedia), and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=490919 (Internet Broadway Database).
Glen Ballard (music and lyrics): http://www.glenballard.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Ballard (Wikipedia).
Dave Stewart (music and lyrics): http://davestewart.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_A._Stewart (Wikipedia).
Bruce Joel Rubin (book and lyrics): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Joel_Rubin (Wikipedia).
Troika Entertainment, LLC (producer): http://www.troika.com/ (official website).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater reviews. She is also Dean of General Education and Developmental Studies at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, where she oversees the theater program at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, and a member of the Person County Arts Council. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.com/.