‘Ghost’ The Musical at Hippodrome Theatre

FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Suspend my disbelief; love really can conquer all, even death itself. In a stunning emotionally charged musical that strikes a chord in the cockles of your heart, love will find a way to survive. Shimmering into existence for a one week limited engagement comes the Tony-nominated show Ghost The Musical. As a part of the Broadway Across America— CareFirst Hippodrome Broadway Series, the beautifully haunting tale— inspired by and adapted from the Academy Award-winning film— brings a brilliantly heartwarming tale with Music and Lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, and Books and Lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin, to the stage for all to adore and cherish until the very end. The First National Tour is Directed by Tony Award winner Matthew Warchus and brings all the dazzling illusions of the movie to life right before your very eyes.

Robby Haltiwanger and the cast of Ghost The Musical Tour. @ Joan Marcus 2013.

Robby Haltiwanger and the cast of Ghost The Musical Tour. @ Joan Marcus 2013.

Taking iconic moments from the movie and transferring them to the stage was facilitated by Illusionist Paul Kieve. Some of the most breathtaking moments happen with a superior blend of visual magic and emotional electricity. Kieve’s skill displays a mastery of his craft; creating believable moments of incredible spectacle that happen just long enough to impress the audience without creating a distraction to wonder over their process. Combining Kieve’s creations with the work of Lighting Designer Hugh Vanstone creates an atmosphere of wondrous proportions; moments of true magic crackling to life in a thrilling fashion.

Ghost The Musical features a great deal of multi-media blended into its set and choreography. Video and Projection Designer Jon Driscoll brings the thrumming urbanity of New York City to the stage without the cumbersome trappings of enormous set pieces. Driscoll’s intricately designed scenic scrolls through busy streets, subway stations, and even the night skyline at the show’s beginning are visually stunning and create an authenticity to the atmosphere of the show. Furthering the media endeavors of this production, Driscoll incorporates shadow and silhouette characters for various dance routines that move in tandem with live performers creating a striking visual effect that consistently supports the notion of the frenetic city that never sleeps.

Choreographer Ashley Wallen delivers sensational routines for the ensemble in this production; her ability to incorporate modern dance with undertones of classic structure creating a unique hybrid form that rings true to the nature of shows currently running on Broadway. Identifying the racing pulse of the city scene, Wallen drives the intensity and the tempo of the dance routines during “More” and “Rain/Hold On.” Executed with precision, the ensemble dance routines are crisp and embody the characteristic of the brutal unending slog of city life while still being sharp and active. Wallen even creates a more traditional show-stopping razzle-dazzle routine for “I’m Outta Here.”

Notable performances amid the ensemble include Hana Freeman as Mrs. Santiago and Brandon Curry as the Subway Ghost. Appearing briefly in “Are You a Believer?” Freeman shocks the audience with an enormously powerful high-soprano belt that could easily shake the dead back to life. Curry spooks the audience with his vicious portrayal of the terrifyingly bitter entity of the New York City underground; his featured moment occurring during “Focus”, a rap-style solo that brings the emotional intensity of a tornado whirling down upon the stage.

Clara (Evette Marie White) and Louise (Lydia Warr) bring a brand of hysterics uniquely their own to the scenes that take place inside Oda Mae Brown’s psychic shop. White and Warr make for a dynamic scene-stealing duo when they start dancing around the shop during “Are You a Believer?” and later during “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Miracle.” Not afraid to strut their funky stuff, White and Warr bring exceptionally powerful voices to both of these musical numbers and add a great deal of comedy to the show in these moments.

Oda Mae Brown (Carla R. Stewart) comes with her own set of psychic vibes. Stewart brings a larger than life personality to the stage, especially once the haunting begins. Adding uproarious moments of impeccably timed comic zingers, Stewart’s honed comic delivery lightens the mood during several of the verbal tiffs exchanged between her character and Sam Wheat. In true showmanship style, Stewart upstages everyone in the show during her breakout number “I’m Outta Here.” A vocal sensation, her enormous sound blasts through this number and “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Miracle.” The intense delivery of these numbers makes Stewart’s performance a supernatural knockout.

Villainy, thy name is Carl (Robby Haltiwanger.) Crafting a multi-dimensional character, Haltiwanger presents the audience with a casual and rather likeable man who quickly devolves into a ruthless bad guy. The first hint of his transformation comes from his surging rendition of “More,” the undertones of his greed cracking through his façade. “Life Turns on a Dime” completes his character shift and again showcases the brilliance and power of his voice. Haltiwanger’s voice blends to perfection in the three-part harmony achieved in “Suspend My Disbelief/I Had a Life” at the end of Act I; a trio of talent from the three lead characters that crashes over the audience with overwhelming emotion.

Molly (Katie Postotnik) and Sam (Steven Grant Douglas) are star-crossed lovers whose paths wend endlessly through this musical. The duo has an inspiring chemistry between them that lives on past the inevitable death of Sam. Their combined emotional struggle is a palpable entity that washes over the audience in all of its tragically beautiful grandeur. With blasts of raw emotions, both harrowing and gripping, these two performers bare their souls in every musical number.

Despite some minor pitch issues, both Postotnik and Douglas are extremely powerful performers. Douglas struggles more so with the correct key than Postotnik but when they harmonize for duets like “Three Little Words” and “Rain/Hold On” their genuine emotional outcries overcome these intonation issues. Douglas lets loose a tidal wave of bereft frustrations in “Sam’s Lament” and again in his half of “Suspend My Disbelief/I Had a Life.” His sharp emotional outbursts easily convey his frustrations, especially when he engages with Oda Mae Brown.

Carla R. Stewart and Steven Grant Douglas, Ghost The Musical Tour. @ Joan Marcus 2013.

Carla R. Stewart and Steven Grant Douglas, Ghost The Musical Tour. @ Joan Marcus 2013.

Postotnik has a stellar vocal longevity when it comes to sustained notes, “With You” and “Nothing Stops Another Day” being prime examples of this ability. Her contributions to larger numbers like “Suspend My Disbelief/I Had a Life” and “Rain/Hold On” display genuine grief; an earnest view of her character’s soul that truly moves the audience to tears.

Time can do so much, and it’s moving so quickly. Be sure to get your tickets to see Ghost The Musical before it vanishes from Baltimore this spring.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

Ghost The Musical plays through April 13, 2014 at Hippodrome Theatre— 12 North Eutaw Street, in downtown Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 547-7328, or purchase them online.

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