SPIRITED Douglas and Postotnik. [Photo ©Joan Marcus 2013]
Ghost The Musical proceeds unabashed in its attempt to hijack our affection with brazen sentimentality, grinning over the top of its bandana and blowing at the smoke from its revolvers at the Providence Performing Arts Center (through October 27).
The music is by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, lyrics by them and Bruce Joel Rubin, with book by Rubin. Directed by Matthew Warchus, the musical was adapted from the popular 1990 film of the same name, which Rubin wrote, earning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Melodramatic romance is the vehicle for this getaway. Not a bad thing if you enjoy a good weepy or have a medical need to open blocked tear ducts. Not so good as a working model of how this world, and the next, actually function. If the latter concerns you, keep impressionable children away.
The storyline is simple. Sam Wheat (Steven Grant Douglas) and girlfriend Molly Jensen (Katie Postotnik) are held up while walking home. He is shot and dies, but his spirit refuses to leave Molly because she is still in danger. He is a banker, and Molly is doing pottery, which allowed the Demi Moore character to nearly swoon from longing with her imagined lover behind her in that memorable movie scene, their hands building a wet clay tower in Hollywood’s notion of metaphorical subtlety. The scene is repeated here, but at least not in close-up.
We get to know them before the traumatic event. While Molly is open about wanting to marry him, Sam has the common male thing about saying those “Three Little Words.” As this duet sings it, he’d rather express the same by making her scrambled eggs. Hmmph — guys. But that does establish a poignant “if only” element to resonate later.
A key character is Carl Bruner (Robby Haltiwanger), the friend and co-worker that Sam tells about an account discrepency he discovers. With that, everything is set up for Sam’s demise and Molly’s continuing jeopardy, since she might have information incriminating the embezzler (whether she knows that or not).
When ghostly Sam sees she’s endangered — his killer ransacks their apartment — it becomes urgent that he figures out how to affect the material world. Eventually, with the reluctant aid of an enraged subway ghost (Brandon Curry) angry at having been pushed onto the tracks, he learns to move small objects.
Sam also needs help to warn Molly. Enter Oda Mae Brown (Carla R. Stewart), unforgettably portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg in the movie. Stewart is good, broad fun as the fraudulent medium, shocked to communicate with her first spirit world denizen. (He convinces her to listen to him by singing “Ten-Thousand Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” Cute.) Knowing things that only Sam would know, she convinces Molly to go to the police to explain that his murder was planned.