The show: "Ghost: The Musical" at Hartford's Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.
What makes it special: There are some special effects, but not enough to bring this dreadful show to life.
First impressions: The dead may have challenges in this touring show of the flop Broadway musical (it did considerably better in London, playing 15 months), but that's nothing compared to what the audience has to endure: a sound system and voices that render the songs, such as they are, incomprehensible. But even given the benefit of better audio and enunciation, with its flat book, so-bad-its-almost-funny choreography and acting that ranges from the dull to sloppy, I would still classify "Ghost: The Musical" as the worst evening I've spent in the theater this year.
Is It worse than "Flashdance: The Musical?": Close call, but I'll have to give it to this show because of the pedigree of some of the creatives, at least going into this project. Dave Stewart of the fab '80s pop Eurythmics and Glen Ballad wrote the generic and insipid score. Yes, "Unchained Melody" (written by Hy Zorel and Alex North) that was featured prominently in the 1990 film in which the musical is based, is heard often here, but it is the only memorable melody in the show. The very good director Matthew Warchus staged this lifeless show, just barely, and presumably his children have since been released from their captors.
Is the story the same as the film?: Exactly, centering on Sam (Steven Grant Douglas) and Molly (Katie Postotnik), a perfect pair of upwardly-mobile romantics She's a sculptor and he's a banker. Life is bliss, save for Sam's inability to say "I love you," which bums Molly out. But just a bit. Then Sam is killed in what first appears to be a robbery gone wrong. But Sam's ghost lingers and learns that his death was not as simple as it seemed as his widow is comforted by a dubious friend Carl (Robby Haltiwanger).
To communicate with Molly, who may be in danger, Sam enlists phony-but-gifted psychic Oda Mae Brown (Carla R. Stewart, providing the only laughs, when the audience could hear or understand her). That was the role that won an Oscar for Whoopi Goldberg, for her warmth, as much as her sass. Not so much here, though. Sam also gets an assist in breaking through to the real world by a fellow spirit with anger management issues (Brandon Curry).
But how do they do the ghosty stuff?: There's a few cool illusions by Paul Kieve — the subway sequence has some theme-park sensurround jolts — but there are several lame ones, too. The real star of the show is Jon Driscoll for his video and projection designs, which are dazzling when they weren't dizzying. But at least it took your mind on the three-dimensional action on stage, including an anonymous ensemble of gyrating, spastic dancers representing god-knows-what. Joel Shier's lighting is exemplary, though, especially the blue light that follows Sam around signifying either death or a Kmart special.
Who will like it?: Perhaps some very forgiving fans of the film. Admirers of state-of-the-art theatrical projections. The Long Island Medium.
Who won't?: The living.
For the kids?: Only if they've been very, very bad.
Twitter review in 140 characters or less: Transparently awful.
Thoughts on leaving the parking lot?: Scorecard for the Bushnell: three outstanding productions with "Peter and the Starcatcher" "Warhorse" and "Book of Mormon," an enjoyable "A Christmas Story," a not-terrible "Miss Saigon," but, oh, that "Flashdance" and now this.
The basics: The show, which runs 2 hours and 30 minutes including one intermission, continues through Sunday, June 15. Information: 860-987-5900 and www.bushnell.org.
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