imagesBy Manning Harris

In 1990 there was a modest little film called “Ghost” which featured Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg; modest, that is, by major studio Hollywood standards.  It only cost $21 million.

But this romantic little film grossed over half a billion dollars, was the year’s highest grossing picture, and won Whoopi Goldberg an Academy Award.

These are figures that showbiz folks do not ignore.  So now we have the Broadway in Atlanta Fifth Third Bank series bringing us “Ghost: The Musical,” running at the Fox through November 10.

If  you saw the movie (and confess—you did, if you’re of age), then you know what’s coming.  But that didn’t stop Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard from writing music and lyrics to the current show, which is on its first American tour, after opening in London and a brief Broadway run.  Bruce Joel Rubin wrote the book and lyrics.

But the name you should know and probably don’t is Paul Kieve, who created the show’s astonishing optical illusions, which have created lots of buzz.  How often have you seen a man walk through a wall onstage?  Not to mention spirits rising from dead bodies and objects and people levitating?  You will, in “Ghost: The Musical.”

And don’t worry:  A certain famous pottery wheel and the Righteous Brothers’ hit “Unchained Melody” are both here.  Steven Grant Douglas and Katie Postotnik play Sam and Molly, our ill-fated lovers, who’ve just moved into the most romantic, bohemian apartment that has ever existed in Brooklyn.  Both are very attractive and are fine actor-singers.

We cannot forget one of the funniest, most irresistible characters in recent film history:  Oda Mae Brown, a charlatan medium/psychic who discovers that she actually has real psychic powers.  “My mother had the gift.  My grandmother had it.  But I thought it skipped me!”  It didn’t, and the ghostly Sam are Oda Mae are among the most delightful teams you’ll ever see.  They don’t trust each other (at first), but they need each other and wind up good chums.

I’m sure you know the basics of the plot:  Sam, a banker, is bumped off in a nefarious scheme by his supposed best friend Carl (Robby Haltiwanger) and a thug (Fernando Contreras) in the opening minutes of the play.  Carl is planning to make off with millions, courtesy of the late Sam and the bank. But Sam is not ready to “cross over”; he has unfinished business, especially protecting the now vulnerable Molly.  A subway ghost (Brandon Curry) instructs Sam on the use of ghostly powers.

There is snazzy choreography by Ashley Wallen and direction by Matthew Warchus.

There is also, unfortunately, a certain lack of dramatic tension, perhaps because at least three fourths of the audience know exactly what’s going to happen.  The songs themselves are pleasant, often delivered at full belting voice (especially by Ms. Postotnik), but they’re not going to challenge “West Side Story” for tunefulness (but then, what could?).

“Ghost: The Musical” will probably please die-hard fans of the movie; but it probably won’t win too many new ones.  The funniest scene is Oda Mae’s discovering she must give up her multi-million dollar check.  And let’s face it:  Many of us are suckers for unabashed romance.  It won’t make you forget the movie—but why should you?

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Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.