Ghost the Musical
In yet another example of just because you can do something doesn't mean you should, Ghost the Musical opened last week on Broadway. Directed by veteran director Matthew Warchus, this "musical" is an apparition, someone thought they saw a musical, but they didn't. Save yourself a lot of money and go out and rent the movie where you will at least make an emotional connection with the characters. The show has an inordinate number of bland power ballads by Glenn Ballard and founding member of Eurythmics, Dave Stewart. These tunes never live up to “Unchained Melody” which is used repeatedly throughout the evening. They are performed adequately by Richard Fleishman and Caissie Levy as the lovers Sam and Molly. Da'Vine Joy Randolph as Oda Mae Brown in the Whoopi Goldberg role is good, but Whoopi was funnier. She does fine by the two numbers in which she is featured. Ms. Randolph has just received a Tony nomination for her performance. Bryce Pinckham is n'er do well Carl Brunner.
The book by Bruce Joel Rubin appears to have come directly from the movie.
The show has an interesting set made up of LED panels that move. Rob Howell has designed the set. The dynamic video and projection design is by Jon Driscoll. The outlines on the LED wall mirror the dancers on stage, they move as they do. Howell and Driscoll have been nominated together for a Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Musical. The illusions by Paul Kieve were impressive. He had Sam walking through walls and has his hand move right through an object while trying to pick it up.
It seems so rare that a movie makes a decent transition from film to Broadway. I could probably name all the decent ones on one hand. Ghost the Musical is not among them. -- Get Tickets to Ghost the Musical
A Streetcar Named Desire
The new production of A Streetcar Named Desire featuring an African-American cast is certainly a well put together production. The three leads, Blair Underwood as Stanley (sans Kowalsky) is effectively intimidating, Nicole Ari Parker as Blanche is mellifluous but her demure “maiden in distress” routine becomes annoying. A large part of that is the character and not Ms. Parker's performance. Daphne Rubin Vega as Stella gives a solid performance and her unusual voice adds an interesting dynamic to Stella.
My favorite performance though from this production is Wood Harris as Mitch, one of Stanley's card-playing buddies. Mitch takes an interest in Blanche before he learns that she's really not what she appears. Mr. Harris plays Mitch with a simplicity and honesty that connected for me. The audience obviously felt this way as well considering the reception they gave him during the curtain call.
I don't think that having an African-American cast is either here nor there, but I did find it distracting wondering if an African-American woman would have owned a plantation in the south in 1952. While there inevitably were land owners of color, Mr. Williams might have adjusted the character of Blanche such that she wouldn't be quite so unsettled by her sister's living circumstances, which frankly, didn’t strike me as all that unbearable. Directed by the McCarter Theatre’s Emily Mann (who personally knew Williams), she has been quoted as saying that "Tennessee always wanted this to happen" but I wonder what changes he would have made to the script with an African-American cast?
A note on the audience, one thing I found tacky, insensitive and frankly, just a little bit disturbing was the laughter of some audience members during the rape scene. This was not brought about by anything either of these actors did, these were just immature theatre goers who obviously weren't taking into consideration the live performance going on in front of them. -- Get tickets to A Streetcar Named Desire