Another Follies inspired musical, this one not and a dud by first time writers Matthew Martin & Tim Realbuto (book, music and lyrics) based on Olive Thomas – a Ziegfeld Follies girl who had an affair with her boss, married Jack Pickford, became a Hollywood star and a heavy drinker, met her death in Paris at age 26 with some mistaken medication and is rumored to haunt the New Amsterdam Theatre as a giving and caring ghost.
Olive Thomas might as well be named Olive Drab in this dullest of shows that spans almost three hours in the saga of Ms. Thomas starring some important show business names playing some VIP show business luminaries.
To wit: Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (Michael Hayden – looking like what Bobby Morse used to look like and bustling about the stage like a chorus boy in heat and not the impresario that Ziegfeld was) Billie Burke aka Mrs. Ziegfeld (Rachael York looking stunning as usual but exhibiting none of the wit that supposedly kept their marriage together) and the fictional Molly Cook, Olive’s best friend (Daisy Eagan). I have to say that Ms. Eagan is the only character I remotely cared about and she gives a fine if subdued performance in this musical that has one of the most somber scores on record.
Tap numbers notwithstanding (choreography by Michael Kidney), the remainder of the score is strange. At times I was reminded of “Falling in Love Again” and “Play a Simple Melody” a counter point song here called “Two of a Kind”. The duet between Olive and Molly “Sometimes” and Jack’s “That’s How I’ll Remember You – sung beautifully by Matt Leisy” fare best.
The Ziegfeld production numbers “Everybody’s Sweetheart” “New York is So Grand” and “Welcome to the Follies” give us some relief from the tedious and senseless story that goes into a bizarre second act where Olive meets up with everyone in her past (and they get to sing a number) after she has gotten her gig as the New Amsterdam Theatre ghost in residence.
Fanny Brice (Kimberly Faye Greenberg – rolling her eyes, mugging and not being very funny) doesn’t help lift the spirits. And when Fanny Brice isn’t funny something is really amiss.
Rachael Fogle, as Olive, has some very large shoes to fill. She looks beautiful and sings nicely but as written can this young girl have been so naïve or did she know exactly what she was doing to get to the top so quickly?
The word “mistake” keeps popping up only to remind us that the concept for Ghostlight is just that – a mistake. Perhaps the writers should not have also directed the piece. Perhaps they should have allowed someone else to do that all important job. Someone with a timer and an eye and ear for what works and what doesn’t.
Everyone’s heart is in the right place but Ghostlight is unfortunately a mere ghost of a musical.
Playing at The Signature Theatre Company’s Peter Norton Space.
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