It will be 26 years this July since Paramount Pictures released “Ghost,” capturing the hearts of many moviegoers with Bruce Joel Rubin’s touching tale of unending love. Maine State Music Theatre opened its season Thursday with a newly revised chamber music stage rendition of “Ghost the Musical” that captures the simple elegance of the award-winning 1990 film with understated effects, a scaled-back set, a fluid score and a powerful cast that have theatergoers falling in love with the characters all over again.

The exclusive premiere, directed by Marc Robin, is a joint venture between Maine State Music Theatre and the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where Robin serves as artistic director. The production is a retooling of the ill-received 2012 Broadway musical in which a large cast, massive set – the national tour required 10 trucks – and overproduced special effects overshadowed the story.

After the Broadway show closed, Theatrical Rights Worldwide approached Robin to create an intimate adaptation that could be staged at regional theaters. He worked directly with Rubin and multi-Grammy Award-winning writer Glen Ballard, producing a show that features new acoustic versions of the Broadway score and an actor-driven storyline that is enhanced by subtle sound and light effects.

The musical tells the love story of Sam Wheat, a banker, and Molly Jensen, an artist. When Sam is murdered during a robbery, he refuses to “pass on,” desperate to remain at Molly’s side. After learning the truth behind his murder, he seeks the help of con artist/psychic Oda Mae Brown to save Molly and set wrongs right.

Robin has cast a dynamic 10-member ensemble that stars Gregg Goodbrod and Liz Shivener as Sam and Molly, roles originated by Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in the film. Mike Backes plays Sam’s treacherous friend, Carl Bruner, and E. Faye Butler is the scene-stealing psychic, who was originally played by Whoopi Goldberg.

Goodbrod’s and Shivener’s playful onstage chemistry gives the characters a likeability that draws the audience into the heart-wrenching love story and ultimately inspires cheers when Carl is dragged into an eye-catching and clever representation of hell.

The pair brings a palpable feeling of loss to the stage, with Molly’s heartbreak over Sam’s murder wrenching tears from the audience and Goodbrod supercharging the onstage emotion with a combination of confusion, fear, anger and overwhelming love for Molly.

Adding to the emotion of the production, the creative team has interwoven a beautifully executed score that is integrated into and around the dialogue. Both Goodbrod and Shivener are powerhouse vocalists who deliver enormous feeling to the songs. “Suspend My Disbelief/I Had a Life,” in particular, showcases Goodbrod’s, Shivener’s and Backes’ vocal talents as the first act draws to a close.

Butler adds comic relief as Brown, and she does so with flair. She’s a hoot from the moment she walks onto the stage as the bigger-than-life con artist, haunted by Goodbrod’s Sam. She expertly plays off of Goodbrod, adlibbing at will and eliciting laughs with her priceless facial expressions. Songs such as “Are you a Believer” are both fun and a nice showcase of Butler’s soulful vocals.

This new rendition of “Ghost the Musical” is a testament to simplicity. Although scaled down, the set is striking, and the minimal special effects provide the perfect touch of magic to the otherworldly love story.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

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Twitter: @ahboyle

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