Often there is an onus on theater to be great, important, and full of meaning. The national tour of Ghost: The Musical, now playing at the Pantages in Hollywood, is none of those things.
It's certainly not a good musical: The songs are forgettable, the lead actors aren't always quite on the right pitches, the characters are pretty one-dimensional, the staging is interspersed with weird, hokey montages (including, for better or worse, an opening credits sequence) and choreography that does nothing to advance the plot. Still, despite its flaws, Ghost manages to be a pleasant experience.
Based on the Oscar-winning 1990 movie - with the most instantly-recognizable pottery session in the world - Ghost follows a young couple, Molly (Katie Postotnik) and Sam (Steven Grant Douglas), who are excited about all the possibilities that await them. These possibilities are cut short, of course, by Sam's untimely death in a botched mugging attempt. Unlike most dead people, though, Sam doesn't immediately move on to heaven or hell - he still has unfinished business, and will roam the earth, unnoticed, until his conflicts are resolved. Soon, he stumbles across a fraudulent psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Carla R. Stewart), who can actually hear him. With her grudging help, Sam tries to convince Molly and their friend Carl (Robby Haltiwanger) to look into the circumstances of his death.
The book by Bruce Joel Rubin (who won an Oscar for the film's screenplay) is mostly adept, moving the plot along at a good pace, and keeping the tone fairly light throughout, not letting the sentimentality seep through too much. The score (by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, with lyrics by Rubin), on the other hand, is, by and large, forgettable, though some of the bigger production numbers like "You Gotta Let Go" and "I'm Outta Here" show flashes of brilliance.
Similarly, the cast, which is full of recent grads of various musical theater programs, is more earnest than astonishingly talented, but they tell the story fairly effectively. Where the show really starts to win over the audience, though, is with the visuals. While about a third of the projections (by Jon Driscoll) are groan-worthy, the other two thirds work well with the set design (only associate scenic designer Paul Weimer is credited, though Rob Howell was the original Broadway designer), Paul Kieve's illusions and Hugh Vanstone's lighting design to present a surprisingly believable supernatural world.
Is Ghost cheesy? Certainly. But is Ghost unwatchable? Decidedly not. In the same way that you can't turn away from great reality television, or a delightfully mediocre movie, Ghost is a welcome distraction from the real world.
Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd; through July 13. HollywoodPantages.com.
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