I have the good fortune to be friends with Bruce Joel Rubin, the writer of the movie GHOST as well as the author of the book and lyrics of the stage musical adaptation of his own film now some 24 years later.
A success in England for almost two years, GHOST the Musical received glowing reviews from the English press. The national tour has been traveling for almost a year after the Broadway run in 2013 and is currently in Los Angeles after which it will shortly come to an end.
GHOSTwas an iconic film and won two academy awards when it came out, one for best original screenplay. It also created a new sub-genre of the supernatural film, the "psycho-spiritual" thriller, one that incorporated the point of view of a dead hero who was still very attached to his life and loves on Earth. There are also a few other films in this unique genre; one is Jacob's Ladder (also written by Bruce) and another is Brainstorm (also written by Bruce). Perhaps you may begin to sense a pattern here.
The magic of GHOST, both the film and musical production, is the chilling sensation you get watching the hero fight for the woman he loves from beyond the grave. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. The musical is true to the plot of the original film and tells the story of a young couple, deeply in love, rended apart by the hero's death. He continues to fight for her as he negotiates the pitfalls of the after life. She struggles to believe he's real.
On stage the hero, Sam (Steven Grant Douglas) has the charm and stage presence one needs to suspend a love story across the ethereal divide as he's forced to accept the fact that his time on Earth is over. Mollie (Katie Postotnik) will break your heart with several songs dealing with her love and loss as Sam watches on. Oda Mae Brown (Carla R. Stewart) brings down the house time and again with welcome comic relief as the fraudulent spiritual advisor who can actually hear Sam. The villain, Carl (Robby Haltiwanger) plays a good foil, handsome but increasingly reptilian as he reveals his darker nature as the play progresses.
The musical is thrilling. The music and lyrics, composed by Dave Stewart (half of the Eurythmics of old) whose musical career spans three decades, and Glen Ballard, one of music's most accomplished producer-songwriters, is emotional and dynamic.
Whether or not there's ironclad scientific proof that the spirit remains after the body fails, everyone certainly has a story of a brush with the spirit world. Some would say where there's smoke, there's fire. We all hold onto our lives with a two fisted iron-handed grip. If you think you're lackadaisical about it try holding your breath for 60 seconds. So it would make sense that we wouldn't pass from this world without some second thoughts.
"We're a society looking for the answer in the next minute, and it won't be there," said Bruce discussing his philosophy on life. "This moment is the only one you've got and it's the only one you'll ever have. And either you've got it working or you don't." He points out that often we're dwelling on the past or worrying about the future and not being in the present with our loved ones or anything else. Sam, the hero in GHOST, learns this the hard way by losing his chance to ever experience the moment again.
"It was a huge learning curve working with someone like Bruce," said Dave Stewart. "He was like a learned professor. He could keep the through line of the story to make sure the audience was transported emotionally while we could worry about the moments on stage with each song."
The musical is a delight and for a new generation who may have missed that opportunity to see the film, the story is as gripping and mind-opening now as it was then. It's the celebration of life from the point of view of a man who has lost it. GHOST the Musical asks us to "believe," not just in supernatural connections, but to believe in every moment.
The notion that life is a daily gift is not a greeting card platitude, it's real wisdom. Ask anyone who's been told their time here is limited. The show reminds us to celebrate every day and not to be afraid to love one another. For in the end that feeling is all you're going to take with you.
Leaving the theater we were able to take a little extra love that night, given to us by the cast who gave us such a celebration of life and love on the stage.
Directed by Matthew Warchus, GHOST the Musical is playing at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles through July 13th, Costa Mesa from July 29th - August 10th and Las Vegas August 12th - August 17th.
Follow Philip David Morton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PhilipDMorton