Chicago Theater Review: GHOST – THE MUSICAL (National Tour at the Oriental Theatre)

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by Lawrence Bommer on January 9, 2014

in Theater-Chicago,Tours


Love can conquer death. That potent wishful thinking was why audiences gobbled up the popular 1990 film Ghost. It also explains why it was turned into a musical, which has gone from West End to Broadway (Stage and Cinema’s review) to a National Tour. While it is a tepid spin-off, the opening last night at the Oriental Theatre proved there is still something about it to be recommended—if you can get past what is not recommended.

Katie Postotnik and Steven Grant Douglas in GHOST THE MUSICAL on tour.

A latter-day equivalent of Blithe Spirit, Topper, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and Carousel, its reliable formula delivers patented goods: A visitor from beyond the grave intervenes in the lives of mortals to comic, dramatic and benevolent effect. A young Wall Street comer named Sam dies ugly and early. After being betrayed and murdered, this Brooklyn boy finds himself “stuck” between life and death. In desperation he intrudes into a séance led by Oda Mae, a scamming psychic from Spanish Harlem. Both are astonished to find out she really can commune with the afterlife, and they warn his beloved Molly against her own imminent assassination. Along the 150-minute way, Sam learns a few supernatural ninja moves (á la the laser sabers in Star Wars) and, after defeating his nemeses, savors one last semi-material embrace with his faithful darling.

Nicole Turner, Carla R. Stewart, Evette Maria White and Hana Freeman in GHOST THE MUSICAL on tour.

There’s something powerful about the unfinished business of a truncated life, especially when the dearly departed is a lost boyfriend who never said “I love you” while his heart was beating. The non-negotiable unfairness of early death makes us temporary believers in retroactive justice. Whether that means you conjure up ghosts—making good what detectives apparently cannot—will tell how much doubt you can deny to swallow the posthumous pleasures offered in Ghost: The Musical.

Robby Haltiwanger and the cast of GHOST THE MUSICAL on tour.

Taken from the movie, the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” is the foundation song of this lukewarm event; the other semi-passable songs are by Dave Stewart (one half of the 80s pop duo the Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (co-writer with Alanis Morissette on the album Jagged Little Pill—which is soon to become another jukebox musical).

The cast of GHOST THE MUSICAL on tour.

Because it’s in “live” 3D, Matthew Warchus’ propulsive staging employs an almost rabid video backdrop which accommodates itself to illusions like Sam soaring through space or walking through a door, a subway melee between him and another phantom amid tumbling passengers, assorted disappearing acts, and flying Sam’s final morph from mock mortality to one of a thousand points of light. There are, of course, obligatory production numbers: Oda Mae and assorted celestial visitors cavorting into conniptions (“I’m Outta Here”), hospital ghosts exhorting Molly (“You Gotta Let Go”), an Umbrellas of Cherbourg homage (“Rain”), and the aptly-titled first act finale (“Suspend Your Disbelief”).

The cast of GHOST THE MUSICAL on tour.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, Broadway in Chicago’s non-union import of the Broadway show plays through January 19 and continues on tour. True believers in the film will appreciate the faithfulness of Bruce Joel Rubin’s adaptation from his screenplay. But they may also feel unentranced by the overachieving orchestra’s drowning of the lyrics, the familiar special effects, and, above all, the lack of chemistry between Steven Grant Douglas’ personable but non-magnetic Sam and Katie Postotnik’s occasionally shrieking and mostly petulant Molly. Here Sam’s ectoplasmic adoration is more assumed than enjoyed. The real life on this busy stage comes from sassy Carla R. Stewart’s merry medium, her bewilderment hilarious as she’s caught up in a literal tug of war between life and death.

Steven Grant Douglas  and Katie Postotnik in GHOST THE MUSICAL on by Joan Marcus

Ghost – The Musical
National Tour presented by Troika Entertainment
Broadway in Chicago at the Oriental Theatre
ends on January 19, 2014
for tickets, call (800) 775-2000
or visit

tour continues through August 17, 2014
for tour dates and cities,

for info on this and other Chicago Theater,

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