Hollywood’s “Ghost,” starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg in the role that won her an Oscar, was a crowd-pleasing box-office draw that over time has become something of a classic.
The story of a murdered man whose ghost teams up with a psychic in order to avenge his death and save his girlfriend, “Ghost” has a plot that seems ludicrous by modern standards but was the stock-in-trade of Shakespeare’s day.
Today’s theater-going audiences can be brutal and unforgiving, however, so when the beloved movie made its journey to Broadway in 2012, as a musical comedy, no less, it was ridiculed for being technically clunky and emotionally overwrought.
So I was happily surprised by Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s new production of “Ghost the Musical,” directed by Robert J. Farley and starring a strong trio of Atlanta players in the iconic roles of Sam, his girl Molly and the hilarious spiritual medium Oda Mae.
Sure, the plot can be cheesy and strained. But this newly imagined, chamber-size version of “Ghost” has a number of wonderful moments, thanks to the comedic shenanigans of Kandice Arrington (as Oda Mae) and the affecting romantic chemistry between Chase Peacock’s Sam and Kylie Brown’s Molly. These young performers imbue the music and lyrics of Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) and his writing partner, Glen Ballard (who collaborated with Michael Jackson on “Thriller”), with sweetness and vitality. (Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin gets credit for the book and lyrics.)
Arrington, as the sassy psychic who is spooked by her own powers, can be very funny, albeit in a broad and stereotypical kind of way. As Carl (a colleague and supposed friend of Sam’s), Jeremy Wood is also good, though the actor has a natural ease and likability that runs a bit counter to the darker impulses of his character. (So as not to spoil the plot, we’ll just leave it at that.) Matt Lewis, who plays both a ghost and a detective, is a solid theatrical technician who brings a touch of irony to the proceedings.
Ricardo Aponte choreographs dances that show off both the panache of this youthful ensemble and the score, which ranges from classics (“Unchained Melody”) to approachable soft rock (“Right Here Now”) to rousing gospel (“Are You Ready?”). With snippets of incidental music here and there, Preston Goodson’s sound design is crisp and smart. (Jamie Bullins contributes an efficient and minimal set, and Emmie Tuttle’s costumes are all of a piece with the mood and tone of the show.)
All in all, “Ghost,” which channels the supernatural to investigate the meaning of love and loss, is a very likable 24th season opener for this Roswell theater.
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