'Ghost the Musical'

Full of moving scenery, lights, projections, film and magical illusions, but devoid of actual magic, the Broadway production of "Ghost" is a lumbering megatuner with little to offer beyond a limitless array of dazzling effects.

Full of moving scenery, lights, projections, film and magical illusions, but devoid of actual magic, the Broadway production of “Ghost” is a lumbering megatuner with little to offer beyond a limitless array of dazzling effects. But while it’s tempting to suggest the show hasn’t a ghost of a chance, that assessment might not be warranted: The still-running London production successfully parried a dire critical reception last July, and audience response to the visuals and that familiar title might well attract enough Rialto customers to make a go of it.

Librettist/co-lyricist Bruce Joel Rubin hews closely to his Oscar-winning 1990 screenplay, about a murdered banker (played here by Richard Fleeshman) who drafts a reluctant clairvoyant (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) to protect his fiancee (Caissie Levy) from his double-dealing best friend (Bryce Pinkham). Rubin gives us two very funny scenes — ghost and clairvoyant with the girl in the first act, and with a banker in the second — which seem more or less lifted from the movie.

Otherwise, the book is flat, as is the score by Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics) and multiple Grammy winner Glen Ballard. Best song in the show is clearly “Unchained Melody,” the 1955 standard by Hy Zaret and Alex North which was featured in the screen version and is prominently showcased here. The hero also has a tendency to sing “10,000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” which has a marginally stronger chorus than much of what the three credited lyricists have collectively wrought. (The score seems to have acquired one replacement since the London opening, a functional song for a stageful of ghosts called “You Gotta Let Go.”)

Brit Matthew Warchus is at the helm, with a first-rate bag of tricks at his disposal, and has guided set/costume designer Rob Howell, video/projection designer Jon Driscoll and illusioneer Paul Kieve through an evening of visual delights.

But other than respectable performances from the leads, that’s about it for the plus column. Fleeshman is likable as the title character. Levy charms throughout, and gets to sing the production’s one believable number, “With You.” Randolph gives a crowd-pleasing turn, especially in her big 11 o’clock number, “I’m Outta Here,” though the song is as dramatically questionable as it is entertaining.

Choreography by Ashley Wallen is of the kinetic, herky-jerky variety, and multiplying the 16 dancers with projected silhouettes only magnifies the weaknesses of the staging. The set crashed and crunched at the first official press preview, resulting in a 24-minute break in the action. This seems to have been a onetime occurrence, and no injuries were reported. But “Ghost” sure ain’t a show you want to see without the effects fully operational.

Ghost the Musical

Lunt-Fontanne; 1,511 seats; $137 top

Production

A Colin Ingram, Hello Entertainment/David Garfinkle, Donovan Mannato, MJE Prods., Patricia Lambrecht, Adam Silberman presentation, in association with Coppel/Watt/Withers/Bewick, Fin Gray/Michael Melnick, Mayerson/Gould/Hauser/Tysoe, Richard Chaifetz and Jill Chaifetz, Jeffrey B. Hecktman, Land Line Prods., Gilbert Prods./Marion/Shahar and Fresh Glory Prods./Bruce Carnegie-Brown, of a musical in two acts, music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin, based on the Paramount Pictures film written by Rubin. Directed by Matthew Warchus, choreographed by Ashley Wallen. Musical direction, David Holcenberg.

Creative

Sets and costumes, Rob Howell; lighting, Hugh Vanstone; sound, Bobby Aitken; video and projections, Jon Driscoll; illusions, Paul Kieve; musical supervision, arrangements and orchestrations, Christopher Nightingale; additional movement, Liam Steel; production stage manager, Ira Mont. Opened April 23, 2012. Reviewed April 19. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

Cast

Sam Wheat - Richard Fleeshman
Molly Jensen - Caissie Levy
Oda Mae Brown - Da'Vine Joy Randolph
Carl Bruner - Bryce Pinkham
Willie Lopez - Michael Balderrama
Subway Ghost - Tyler McGee
Hospital Ghost - Lance Roberts
Lionel Ferguson - Jeremy Davis
With: Moya Angela, Jason Babinsky, Mike Cannon, Sharona D'Ornellas, Josh Franklin, Albert Guerzon, Afra Hines, Carly Hughes, Alison Luff, Vasthy Mompoint, Jennifer Noble, Joe Aaron Reid, Constantine Rousouli, Jennifer Sanchez, Daniel J. Watts.

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