A fantastic musical has songs that you want to learn, characters you keep thinking about long after the curtain falls and a magic that can transform a worldview. But when a musical fails, it usually fails spectacularly.
Case in point, “Ghost: The Musical.” This trite, easily forgotten musical played on Broadway for only 136 shows for a reason. It has nothing one expects from a breakout musical. The music, which should be front-and-center and drive the whole production, is bland at best. The lyrics are simplistic. The characters are onedimensional and emotionally flat. That’s a huge set of problems that the Owosso Community Players set about to overcome. Sadly, the group’s efforts ultimately fall flat.
The story is pretty simple. Molly Jensen (Mary Mauer) is in love with Sam Wheat (Adam Woolsey) and vice versa. A tragic robbery gone bad leaves Sam dead. Sam’s ghost, still roaming the earth, discovers a plot by his best friend, Carl Bruner (Joe Quick), to gain access to Sam’s client’s bank accounts. Apparently Carl had hidden drug dealers’ cash in those accounts, and the bill had come due.
With a weak script that provides virtually no time for the audience to emotionally connect with Sam and Molly, the actors are left with the job of presenting a fully realized and blossoming romance before they ever set foot on the stage. Woolsey and Mauer fail spectacularly at this. What ought to sizzle as a playful, loving relationship instead plods about on the stage. Their emotional lives are completely flat.
Quick’s Carl is so close to the stereotypical “bad guy” that you expect a moustache twirling hand gesture whenever he is on stage. While the three leads deliver uninspiring acting performances, they did deliver outstanding vocal performances — when they weren’t being hampered by poor microphone work.
The only performance that makes this production worth the time is that of Jenise Cook as Oda Mae Brown, the psychic that Sam enlists to deliver his posthumous warnings about Carl to Molly. Despite having the worst technical support — her microphone cut in and out — Cook rooted her character in something authentic. Here was a real person, in extraordinary circumstances, responding as such. Her character was over the top, but you buy every second of it.
The chorus, under the musical direction of Nick Fredrick, also underperformed. They were rarely in time with each other and often fighting to be heard over each other. This made Oda Mae’s big song, “I’m Outta Here,” crash and burn. Cook was not able to overcome the clumsy, unfocused chorus to deliver the powerhouse, show-stopping moment the number deserved.
Much of the blame for the show’s shortcomings must fall at the feet of director Lyn Freeman. A stronger director, with a more deft hand, might have been able to push the actors for stronger emotional performances, demand the chorus work as one and cut out the technical issues which plagued the show.
“Ghost: The Musical”
Owosso Community Players 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14; 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15 $20/$18 seniors and students/$10 children 13 and under The Lebowsky Center 122 E. Main St., Owosso (090) 723-4003, owossoplayers.com