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'Ghost the Musical' score is ho-hum but its bells and whistles shine

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It’s always a risky prospect when a musical is adapted from an blockbuster film. In the case of “Ghost the Musical” inspired by the 1990 romantic thriller film “Ghost,” the book stays close to the screenplay of the Academy Award nominated movie. But as a musical, it relies more on its video imagery, special effects and paranormal love story to capture the audience’s attention, than its unmemorable score. Presented by Broadway in Indianapolis, a national touring production of “Ghost the Musical,” with book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin and music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, opened Tuesday and will play through March 9 at the Old National Centre’s Murat Theater in downtown Indianapolis.

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The plot of “Ghost the Musical,” which is set in New York City, centers on Sam and Molly, a loving couple who are mugged as they head for their apartment. After Sam is killed, he stays in the real world rather that crossing to the other side because he doesn’t want to leave Molly, who is in danger. Eventually, Sam finds a psychic, Oda Mae Brown, to warn her.

Directed by Matthew Warchus, the leads for “Ghost the Musical” include Steven Grant Douglas (Sam Wheat), Katie Postotnik (Molly), Carla R. Stewart (Oda Mae Brown) and Robby Haltiwanger (Carl Bruner).

All the members of the cast turned out respectable performances, but it was Stewart who stood out in the role of the colorful medium with a criminal record for which Whoopi Goldberg won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the film version. Making the part her very own, Stewart, in possession of a powerhouse voice, was larger than life as the crooked store front seer with an actual gift who finds redemption when she helps Sam save Molly, thereby allowing him exit this world the afterlife.

Also making for a commanding presence in an intense performance was Brandon Curry as the territorial, raging Subway Ghost who teaches Sam how to make things move during one of the show’s most exciting, action-packed scenes, and production number (“Focus”).

The main attraction of the show however was its technical bells and whistles. As in the film, Manhattan serves as a prime character. Through the use of live action video projected on multiple screens, the city’s urban environment and locations were illustrated effectively. Though impossible to duplicate the film’s special effects depicting the supernatural, the stage production employed lighting and other tricks that created its own believable illusions.

The production’s ensemble of skilled singer/dancers who played everything from NYC pedestrians to corporate drones, to ghosts also deserve plaudits for their execution of Ashley Wallen’s interesting robotic choreography.

Last but not least, it should be pointed out that one of filmdom’s most famous scenes — the one in which Molly is throwing a pot while Sam’s ghost hovers over her and their song, “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers, is playing in the background — is in the musical and just as heart-wrenching as ever.

Tickets for “Ghost the Musical” are on sale, starting at $28 and available in person at the Broadway Across America box office downtown at 342 Massachusetts Avenue, Clowes Memorial Hall, The Old National Centre ticket office, online at BroadwayAcrossIndiana.com or by phone at 1-800-982-2787.

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