“Ghost The Musical” substitutes flash for passion

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‘GHOST THE MUSICAL’

NOT RECOMMENDED

When: Through Jan. 19

Where: Oriental Theatre,

Tickets: $27-$95

Info: (800) 775-2000; www.BroadwayInChicago.com

Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

Full disclosure: I never saw the popular 1990 film, “Ghost,” the supernatural thriller and love story that starred Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg, but I have to believe it was at least several magnitudes better than “Ghost The Musical,” the largely moribund show it has inspired.

Frankly, I will not be checking with Netflix at any point in THIS life to compare and contrast the two versions. I’ve had more than enough exposure to this story thanks to the non-Equity national touring production that opened Wednesday at the Oriental Theatre. I can only hope that the unholy mess of Broadway cliches, disjointed styles, and flashy (at times all but blinding) video game-like lighting and special effects in this unevenly “updated” (and interminable) stage version is a sad betrayal of the original.

“I don’t believe in this life-after-death stuff,” says Molly (Katie Postotnik), the pretty young sculptor whose investment banker boyfriend, Sam (Steven Grant Douglas), is gunned down on a New York street one night, shortly after the two have moved into a spacious Brooklyn loft and are probaby destined to marry. But she will have no choice as, over the next two hours or more, Sam will do everything possible to resist his ghostly impotence, and attempt to protect Molly from his Iago-like, money-laundering “friend” and business partner, Carl (Robby Haltiwanger), and the thuggish Latino hitman Carl has hired to do his dirty work.

Sam’s unlikely ally in fighting back is Oda Mae Brown (Carla R. Stewart), the hardworking uptown psychic with a rap sheet. (She also happens to be just the latest in a long line of high-spirited black female characters routinely used to inject some pizzazz into flagging shows.) Stewart has energy to spare, and her scene with a bank teller has some broad comic flair, even if, like everything else in the show, it goes on far too long.

Aside from the sweet little catchphrases of the opening scene (Sam, unable to actually say “I love you” to Molly, says “Ditto” after SHE speaks those three words), the show’s book, by Bruce Joel Rubin (who also penned the screenplay) is all plot and filler. The score, by Dave Stewart, Glen Ballard and Rubin, is forgettable. The briefly sampled classic, “Unchained Melody” (the 1955 song by Alex North and Hy Zarel that Sam playfully sings to beguile Molly) easily outclasses everything else. In addition, most of the show’s lyrics are unintelligible, and while Postotnik and Douglas are earnest, they can’t pump much life into their weak material and lack any particular vocal allure.

British director Matthew Warchus (of “Mathilda” fame) seems to have been largely engaged in keeping the show’s traffic (the elaborate video, projections, lighting and “illusions”) moving. The characters remain one-dimensional, even when they’re not ghosts.

Email: hweiss@suntimes.com

Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic

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