MSMT opens with 'Ghost'
by Gina Hamilton
"Ghost", the musical, is based on the film of the same name from 1990. The MSMT production, which runs from June 8 through June 25, stars Gregg Goodbrod as Sam Wheat, Liz Shivener as Molly Jensen, Mike Backes as Carl Bruner, and E. Fay Butler as psychic Oda Mae Brown. The production is the East Coast Regional premiere, having been pruned back severely from the original Broadway show in 2012.
This production is based on acoustic instruments, and a relatively small cast -- in addition to the four main characters, there are only six other players. Kyle E. Baird plays the rapping subway ghost, Ceasar L. Barajas plays the murderous Willie Lopez, Jessica Lorion, Janelle McDermoth, and Linnaia McKenzie play the roles of Oda Mae's support staff and the bank clerk, and Billy Clark Taylor plays the hospital ghost and Ferguson, another bank staffer. They also play ensemble parts as needed.
Taken as a whole, the new pared-down production has a more intimate feel, which lets the subject matter shine, rather than competing with everything a musical can be. The audience can experience the numbness and grief of both Sam and Molly, who had just started out on their lives together, before Sam is murdered and Molly left to face an empty future.
Even the set fits into the suffering. The sketchy Manhattan skyline beyond the Brooklyn Bridge glimpsed through the apartment windows, the broken bits of masonry, the gloomy skeletal subway, and the industrial bank where Sam and Carl work all have the feel of the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
When the newly deceased Sam discovers that he had, in fact, been murdered, and that Molly is in danger, he refuses to move on to his reward, and seeks for a way to help her. He happens to come across Oda Mae's psychic storefront, and at first dismisses her as a charlatan, but then discovers she can hear him. He presses her into service to try to warn Molly, and at first, the grief-stricken Molly refuses to believe it, but Oda Mae knows too many personal things -- things only Sam would know, and she begins to believe he is speaking to her beyond the grave. Unfortunately, Oda Mae has a history, and when the police tell Molly of that history, she reverses course.
However, Sam is learning even more disturbing things -- his best friend and most trusted employee is not only looting the bank, he is behind Sam's death, and Sam redoubles his efforts to warn Molly.
Despite the serious subject matter, there are many lighthearted moments in "Ghost" -- it's not a total tearjerker.
The music is somewhat forgettable, but the set and lighting design, and the story of love that transcends human life, the struggles of holding on and letting go, is a story everyone on the planet can relate to.
It's well worth seeing this quiet little entrance into the season.
For tickets, visit www.msmt.org.