Monday Smiles – 6/30/2014
Sunday morning, Muri and I made the freeway trek from Orange County to Hollywood to see Ghost – the Musical at the Pantages Theater. The Pantages is a vestige of a Hollywood gone by, a lovely art deco theater which opened in 1930 as a movie and vaudeville venue. Between 1949 and 1959, the Pantages hosted the Academy Awards and in 1977 it closed as a movie theater and began hosting live theater. These days, it is one of L.A.’s leading theater venues, presenting such hits at Wicked and The Lion King. The Pantages is a half block from the corner of Hollywood and Vine with the Hollywood Walk of Fame passing right in front of the theater. After living in greater L.A. for 45 years. Muri and I tend to take the tourist sites for granted, even though they were on our must see list when we first visited California years ago. It’s always a surprise to see tour buses and crowds of tourists flocking to Hollywood and Vine, since it hasn’t been a center for the film industry for years. In spite of recent renovations in the area, including a 2000 renovation of the Pantages, it still strikes us as a slightly seedy section of Hollywood. It is, however, fun to see a Broadway-style musical in a 1920’s style art deco Hollywood theater.
Ghost – the Musical continues the trend of basing musical theater on successful movies, based as it is on the 1990 romance-crime thriller starring Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopie Goldberg. If you’ve been coming around Bud’s Blog for a while, you know that musicals would not be my first choice in theater, and if I were to choose a musical production, it would be one based on a corny romantic chick-flick. I’d probably choose something quirky like Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street or something nostalgic like Jersey Boys. But we’d seen every film on our slim must-see list along with a few on our could-see list … and had no desire to see another special effects marathon like the miserable Amazing Spiderman 2. And there was Ghost – The Musical for half price on Goldstar Events. Background check: panned with early closure on Broadway, mixed reviews everywhere else … and, irony of ironies … some criticism overdoing the special effects. Really.
So, were the critics right? The problem with critics, it seems to me, is that they rarely say, Entertaining but flawed, which describes Ghost – The Musical perfectly. The production was true to the substance of the film but somehow lost some of the romance. Some might say the romance got lost in the special effects but I think it was the fault of the forgettable rock-based score. Several poignant moments were wasted on ballads with little heart and it’s not a good sign when the snippets of Unchained Melody touched the heart the most. Still, the cast was good and their voices well-matched to the music. The staging was amazing, using large LED back-screens and images projected on scrims to instantly change mood and create mind-bending supernatural illusions, like Sam Wheat’s passage through a door and his disappearance at the end. The choreography was interesting, well-performed and benefited from strobe-light stop-action and imagery on the back-screens. As is so often the case, the audience ignored the critics and loved Ghost, giving it a standing ovation. Me? I’d give it a very entertaining B. And believe me an entertaining B from Older Eyes beats the crap out of Transformers: Age of Extinction on any Monday. And on this particular Monday, by the way, I’m smiling.