by: Sandi Durell

It’s a rare occasion that a stage production can take on as many elements of movie illusion as “Ghost the Musical.” If you saw the 1990 movie with Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg, then you’re already familiar with the storyline which doesn’t change much for this stage version created by Bruce Joel Rubin whose script won an Academy Award. Added here are music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard.

The many magical illusionary tricks are more than creatively effective as Jon Driscoll uses video walls and projections of aircraft, trains, life size people as backdrop, as cast members speed walk and dance their way through musical numbers choreographed by Ashley Wallen. Driscoll is aided by the impressive lighting skills of Hugh Vanstone and illusions of Paul Kieve. There is literally smoke and mirrors! Scenery by Rob Howell keeps moving in and out, setting the interior loft space.

The sad love story revolves around Molly, a sculptress, and her boyfriend Wall Street financier Sam Wheat. Sam is killed on the streets by a thief hired by his dishonest coworker Carl (Bryce Pinkham) who pretends to be Sam’s best friend but is behind the scenes laundering drug money. Sam remains on earth as a ghost and although he attempts to warn Molly of potential dangers, is unable to because she cannot see or hear him. Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy play the title roles and they both are well suited vocally for the pop rock score that, unfortunately, sounds one-dimensional. There are repetitive songs such as “Here Right Now,” but then there’s “Suspend My Disbelief,” which Molly sings in Act II that has some real content and feeling. However, if you go out humming, it will be the familiar “Unchained Melody.” Fleeshman is well suited for the role and Levy would need a bit more pathos to enhance her Molly.

The real highlight of Ghost the Musical is the debut of Da’Vine Joy Randolph who plays Oda Mae Brown, a larger than life phony psychic, who turns out to be the only person who can actually hear Sam and help him communicate to Molly. She is hysterical as Oda Mae and has two showstoppers: “Are You a Believer”(Act I) and a romping “I’m Outta Here” (Act II) which make seeing Ghost more than worthwhile. Da’Vine, a Yale grad, is now up for a Tony as Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Notable performances include Tyler McGee as the Subway Ghost in a visually enticing subway rumble scene as he attempts to teach Sam how to “Focus;” and by Lance Roberts as the Hospital Ghost who advises Sam “You Gotta Let Go.”

Ghost, under the direction of Matthew Warchus, is haunting the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street. I do believe that if I had 3-D glasses, I would have felt I was actually at the movies!

Photo: Joan Marcus