When you adapt a stage musical from a hit movie, it can be difficult to leave behind comparisons to the original film.
In this case the movie is “Ghost,” a 1990 blockbuster movie starring the late Patrick Swayze as Sam Wheat and Demi Moore as Molly Jensen, a couple whose love keeps them connected even after he is murdered.
The film also stars Whoopi Goldberg as Oda Mae Brown and Tony Goldwyn as Carl Bruner.
In “Ghost The Musical,” directed by Tony-award winning Matthew Warchus, stars Steven Grant Douglas as Wheat, Katie Postotnik as Jensen, Carla R. Stewart as Oda Mae Brown and Robby Haltiwanger as Carl Bruner, playing through Sunday at the Straz Center, with streaming videos, strobe lights and dazzling special effects.
In fact, after Tuesday night’s show we heard several people commenting on the effects with a “how did they do that?” curiosity.
Douglas, as the ghostly Sam, walks through a door; spirits ascend to heaven and subway passengers seemingly float during a high speed train ride, in convincing effects created by illusionist Paul Kieve.
And kudos to the crew member who kept Douglas bathed in a ghostly soft blue light where ever he was on stage.
Unfortunately the love story, the core of the production, gets lost amid the high-tech, hustle and bustle happening on stage. The audience witnesses the passion though Sam and Jensen’s selfies and love scene that plays like a movie — and the agony of separation after Sam’s death — but neither seemed to resonate.
Stewart’s Oda Mae, a storefront psychic turned real medium, a role that won Goldberg an Oscar, fares a little better as comic relief and in high-energy song and dance numbers, though her last performance, “I’m Outta Here,” seemed overly long and had my companion wishing she was “outta there.”
Robby Haltiwanger as Sam’s villainous friend Carl, has a strong voice, despite his boyishly nonthreatening presence, but he doesn’t get much solo action.
Still, there are bright spots.
Brandon Curry, as the in-your-face subway ghost, who teaches Sam to move objects and open doors with the power of his emotions is especially memorable in his highly-charged scenes.
And Douglas’ performance of “Sam’s Lament” and Postotnik’s “With You” and “Nothing Stops Another Day” are touching.
But the song that will stay in your head after the performance, remains “Unchained Melody,” the Righteous Brothers hit that conjures memories of Swayze and Moore at the pottery wheel and is an important, albeit interrupted, moment in the Straz production.