The 1990 film Ghost holds a unique place in popular culture. While it did win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (and a Supporting Actress statue for Whoopi Goldberg), it is remembered more in snapshots than for the story as a whole. Even if you’ve never seen the movie (like me), you know about two things – a sexy pottery wheel and “ditto.” And while I may not be fully informed on all of the details of the original story, Ghost has both the imagination and romance to make for an excellent musical.
If you read anything relating to Ghost the Musical, the biggest talking point will almost always be the special effects – and with good reason. Perhaps the biggest challenge in adapting the film to the stage is recreating the supernatural world, as the ghosts and spirits interact with the living and with each other. This is done through a wide range of effects, but the most prevalent is the use of projections on multiple screens on the stage. Creating the illusion of anything from rain to a moving subway car, the projections allow for a unique portrayal of several scenarios and environments.
Some of the more supernatural events are also created through some very interesting wire work. Particularly noteworthy is a scene on a subway car in which Sam (the Patrick Swayze character) confronts another ghost who uses his otherworldly abilities to seemingly alter gravity, as passengers and their belongings suddenly float over the stage in “slow motion.” These clever visuals do an excellent job of creating a clear distinction between the living characters and the ghosts around them.
Perhaps the highlight of the show was the character of Oda Mae Brown, originated in the film by Whoopi Goldberg. Infusing humor and life into the show, actress Carla R. Stewart was truly a scene stealer, with some of the liveliest musical numbers of the night.
While some of the heart of the beloved film seems to have been lost in the translation to the stage, Ghost the Musical proves to be an impressive feat in its use of visuals and innovation in a live performance. The dazzling lighting and production are arguably the most notable stars of the show, creating a truly unique on-stage world.
Ghost the Musical is currently playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center, with daily shows through Sunday, November 17th, including matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.