Monday, June 26, 2017

Ghost the Musical - Old Log Theatre

Last weekend, some of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers gathered at the Old Log Theatre to take in their new production of Ghost: The Musical

Before you ask--yes, it is based on the 1990 movie that starred Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze as Sam and Molly, a cohabiting couple in which the boyfriend (Sam) dies and then has to save her (Molly) from his murderer.

The stage version, with book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote the movie's screenplay, and music and lyrics by Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (cowriter and producer of Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill), premiered in England in 2011 and opened on Broadway in 2012.

The film of Ghost is still a cultural touchstone. You know, "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers, romantically messy pottery scene, "I love you", "Ditto", and a single, precious tear rolling down Demi Moore's perfect cheek.

Mollie Fischer/Frank Moran
Photo Credit: Old Log Theatre
However, full disclosure: The movie never did a thing for me. Want a romantic comedy about love after death with great music? Try Truly, Madly, Deeply with Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson, complete with cello/piano duets and true, realistic love and grief. However, here's a tip: Don't call it the "Thinking Person's Ghost" to someone who likes Ghost. They get offended.

Anyhoo, back to Ghost: The Musical. Directed by Eric Morris, and featuring a surprisingly racially diverse cast, the show was diverting and pleasant to watch. But similar to the movie, it's not a show that spoke to me. There simply isn't enough there there.

The musical seems to be relying on the audience's knowledge of the movie to shortcut the story. When Sam dies, it's hard to feel any emotion at Molly's loss, as the story focuses on Sam realizing he's still around as a ghost. The music, mostly forgettable, doesn't add any emotional resonance. Despite being well-acted by a cast of engaging performers, the actors were undercut by the lack of character.

Caitlynn Daniels/Heather McElrath/Emily Janson/
China Brickey. Photo credit: Old Log Theatre
Which brings me to Heather McElrath as Oda Mae. How can you have this kind of powerhouse role and not write her at least two show-stopping, roof-raising numbers? Heather is so amazing, and it was sad to see how the musical underuses her character, as well as the characters of Clara and Louise.

That said, the Old Log is a lovely place to see a show, out in the woods of Excelsior, and the staff at the theater were completely wonderful. I hope to have the opportunity to see more substantial material there in the future, material that is more worthy of the skilled direction and acting.