Ghost the Musical is an adaptation of the supernatural thriller/ romance film Ghost , the highest grossing movie of 1990 (surpassing Pretty Woman and Home Alone) which starred Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. As a ghost story, the film was one of the first to introduce Computer Graphic Information (CGI) on screen and stun its audience with the unbeknownst magic of special effects. The musical screenplay succeeds the film’s innovations by transferring an afterlife love story on live stage.
The musical Ghost begins with Sam Wheat and Molly Jensen moving into a loft apartment in Brooklyn with the help of Sam’s co-worker and close friend, Carl Bruner. Sam is a banker in the world of high finance New York, presumably in a lofty position as Carl often refers to him as “boss”. Molly, on the other hand, is close to gaining recognition in the art world with her pottery. Carl’s presence does not discourage Sam and Molly in displaying their affection for one another and Carl leaves the two alone in their new home.
The scene abruptly changes to the honking streets in the commuting hour of New York. The sound of traffic become more rhythmic and instrumental as suited New Yorkers sing, coffees and briefcases in hand, about the anxieties but simultaneous excitement of their lives in the metropolis. They choir- in New York, you are “invisible” but “invincible”. We then see Sam and Carl on their way to work and as they arrive in the upper floor of a lavish bank. Later in the evening, despite having too much work left due to the discovery of a suspicious bank account, Sam leaves to have dinner with Molly. Carl assures Sam that he will look into it.
In an amiable bistro, Sam and Molly discuss the possibility of Molly receiving a positive review from a high-profile critic for her recently exhibited art. Sam tells Molly that her artwork stands for itself, regardless of what critics may have to say. Such emotional support prompts Molly into proposing that they get married soon and in response to Molly’s affectionate “I love you”, Sam responds by saying “Me too”, translated from the movie’s famous line, “Ditto”. Molly flees the scene in a fit of anger and decries Sam for his inability to say the “three little words” back. However, before their argument can go on much longer, they are confronted by a mugger on a sketchy corner who demands that Sam give him his wallet. Sam doesn’t care about the money, but he is unwilling to surrender his wallet. This leads to a struggle between Sam and the mugger, and after a loud bang the thief runs away. Sam gives up and goes back to the scene to check on Molly.
Sam looks over at Molly and is stunned to see his body covered in blood as Molly screams for help. Sam’s disorientation from the situation is evident as Molly’s cries become more muffled and distanced as Sam’s shock betrays his senses. From there, we travel to the hospital where Sam watches as he is declared dead and where he meets other spirits residing in the hospital lobby. The main purpose of the rather upbeat musical number from the hospital spirits is to inform Sam and the audience of a few of the rules on inhabiting the material world as a spirit. Sam refers back to the lyrics, later on, to guide himself while navigating the world in such an unfamiliar form.
Sam is left alone in the apartment as he is still getting used to moving between spaces. He’s not alone for long, however, and much to his surprise the mugger who murdered him enters their home. He is scavenging for something, but he ultimately gives up and escapes when Molly returns home. Thus, both Sam and the audience discovers that Sam’s murder was not just an unfortunate turn of events in a mugging. Sam is able to follow the mugger to his sleazy apartment and finds out that the man’s name is Willie Lopez and makes note of his address.
By this time, Sam is so desperate to tell someone of the new information that he enters a psychic parlor. However, he starts to leave as the psychic, Oda Mae Brown, and her sisters are obviously running a scam business. But when Oda Mae tells her sisters that she can hear a man’s voice, Sam realizes that Oda Mae can hear spirits voices. Apparently, Oda Mae’s mother and grandmother had the same abilities (presumably the reason why she chooses a career as a psychic, even as a scammer) but Oda Mae never wanted to talk to the dead. She refuses to help Sam in delivering the very important news to Molly
Sam is eventually able to annoy Oda Mae into helping him and she seeks out Molly to act as Sam’s mouthpiece. Molly thinks that Oda Mae is playing a disgusting trick on her but Sam feeds Oda Mae enough personal information to make Molly believe that he is present, at least as a spirit. That evening, Molly tells Carl about Willie Lopez and explains that Sam’s murder had deeper roots. Carl calls her crazy, but Molly has made up her mind about going to the police. He promises to investigate the matter himself and asks for Willie Lopez’s address.
Sam follows a huffy Carl to Willie’s apartment, urging Carl to be careful. However, it turns out that Carl’s anger was not due to the murder of his friend, but because Willie Lopez nearly exposed Carl’s role in his friend’s murder. He orders Willie to confront Oda Mae and find out how she learned about Sam’s murder. Sam discovers that Carl’s plans were to extort the suspicious account that Sam was looking into and that he had had a contract with Willie to find the passcode of the bank account.
Molly is at the police station where the police read aloud Oda Mae’s intricate criminal record. Molly walks home angry, but realizes she is more depressed at how she only believed Oda Mae because she misses Sam so much. When she arrives home, Sam watches her as she tries to distract herself by making pottery. She sits down at her pottery table and Sam’s spirit embraces her; at this moment, it seems as though Molly is able to feel Sam’s presence. However, they are interrupted by Carl banging on the door. Molly tells Carl that he was right in thinking she had gone mad, and he tries to take advantage of her vulnerability and make a move on her. Sam, unable to control his anger, screams, and the momentum breaks the glass of a photo of Sam and Molly. Molly, already visibly uncomfortable, asks Carl to leave.
Sam is motivated more than ever to learn how to move objects as a spirit. In addition to harnessing his frustrations, several pieces of advice from another spirit enables him to control his abilities.
Sam and Oda Mae partner up once again to deal with Carl and his plans to extort the suspicious bank account. Oda Mae poses as the owner of the account and withdraws all the money from the bank. Carl on the other hand assures his mysterious employer that the money will be ready by 4:00 p.m., but we know that it won’t be. Oda Mae celebrates with her massive withdrawal which is shortlived when Sam tells her they are donating it to a charity.
Carl is now frightened for his life and enters Sam and Molly’s apartment, armed with a gun. He owes an impossible amount of money to drug dealers and is desperate to know where the money has gone. Sam moves objects to throw Carl off, there is a struggle and Carl accidentally fires the gun which is pointed at himself. Red spirits descend and drag Carl to hell and they are accompanied by white spirits, who are to take Sam away as well, but to heaven.
The musical is composed of narratives we’ve seen before— a partner’s inability to say “I love you” back, the trusted friend who was the foe all along, how the good go to heaven and the bad get banished to hell. The musical, in the end, is about Sam and Molly, and the emotional poignancy of their tragic affair is preserved in song and production. In their world on stage, Sam and Molly are able to bid each other a proper farewell.
Date : 2020.10.06 ~ 2021.03.14
Place : D-Cube Art Center