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'Ghost' needs more emotion, not illusions

Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy star in

Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy star in "Ghost The Musical." Photo Credit: Getty Images

The ads for "Ghost: The Musical" proclaim "You've never felt anything like this . . . You've never seen anything like this." The point, well taken, is that this song-and-dance adaptation of the hit 1990 movie attempts to push Broadway technology beyond mere cinematic rip-off to something akin to music videos at the IMAX.

Never mind, presumably, that the songs, the story and the acting are paint-by-numbers primers that add nothing to the movie that starred Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze, Whoopi Goldberg and a pottery wheel spinning to the unhinged innuendo of "Unchained Melody."

The main event here is the feeling/seeing of all the neat nonstop special effects (except when a mysterious technical glitch caused a dead stop for almost a half-hour at a recent preview). Spirits rise from corpses, ghosts learn to put their hands through walls, move objects, kick butt and, in the case of dearly departed Sam (Richard Fleeshman), struggle to convince his brokenhearted Molly (Caissie Levy) that her life is in danger.

Little wonder that, despite the musical's mixed reviews in London, producers rushed to show Broadway all their soaring LED flights through New York skylines and compare all those fiber-optic doodads with the ones over at spider-guy.

Director Matthew Warchus, who already wowed the Tonys with his mastery of physical farce ("Boeing, Boeing," "The Norman Conquests"), seems to have become intrigued by the possibilities of machinery. This is impressive, but to what end?

Bruce Joel Rubin, who won an Oscar for his "Ghost" screenplay, does a tracing-paper job transferring the plot to the stage. The music and lyrics by Dave Stewart (the Eurythmics) and Glenn Ballard are bland and derivative -- rap for the scary subway ghost and gospel for the East Harlem fortune teller (Da'Vine Joy Randolph in a game attempt to find freshness in Broadway's increasingly desperate cliche of the large black screamer).

But worry not. Bits of "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers are scattered through the evening like raisins, reassuring us that the now-iconic pottery-wheel erotica will, some day soon, momentarily push an intimate emotion through the overpowering stage business.

The automaton choreography has people looking like zombies, even when they are not. Illusionist Paul Kieve makes amazing stage pictures, but, so far anyway, they can't compare to human theater magic.

WHAT "Ghost:

The Musical"

WHERE Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W. 46th St.

INFO $57-$137; 877-250-2929; ghostonbroadway.com

BOTTOM LINE Technical wizardry, bland show

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