'Ghost' & 'Leap of Faith'
p>This season every new Broadway musical seems to be based on a film. Producers count on a recognizable title (and loyal fan base) to fill seats. Never mind that there’s often no good reason for onscreen characters to break into song. Consider Ghost, the 1990 film that made a pottery wheel an aphrodisiac. Naturally, banker Sam (a chiseled Richard Fleeshman) serenades aspiring artist Molly (strong-voiced Caissie Levy) with an acoustic-guitar version of ”Unchained Melody.” Unfortunately, Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard’s new songs are bland and forgettable mush. Da’Vine Joy Randolph stands out with her sassier, sitcommy take on psychic Oda Mae Brown, but the show’s chief draws are the high-tech set, striking lighting, cinematic video projections, and Paul Kieve’s onstage magic effects. Like Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Ghost haunts the eye, not the ear.
It can be hard for stage actors to live up to movie stars in iconic roles. One solution: Adapt obscure movies like Leap of Faith, a 1992 flop starring Steve Martin as a charlatan preacher who brings his cash-sucking revival tent to a depressed Kansas town. At least it’s easier to imagine the Rev. Jonas Nightingale (Raúl Esparza, confident but not slick enough) and his choir bursting into composer Alan Menken’s rousing gospel-tinged numbers. Many of the songs are heaven-sent, particularly when Krystal Joy Brown, as a choir leader, belts them out. While the film may be less familiar, the story is not: It’s The Music Man meets 110 in the Shade, with an overly pat ending that undercuts the plot’s refreshing ambivalence about the path to salvation. Ghost (Ticketmaster.com): C Leap of Faith (Telecharge.com): B-