"Ghost," the 1990 American romantic/fantasy/thriller film, really needs no introduction, being one of the great blockbusters of the era. Driven by a fascinating plot-line and stellar performances from an all star cast, the film grossed some half a billion dollars and has become a bastion of popular culture.

That's a hard act to improve upon. Camelot Theatre's staging of the musical version of the popular film is among the best things that the venue has delivered to their audiences. The 2½ hour "Ghost the Musical" is engaging, passionate and robust, with great performances from a strong cast of actors who really chew up the scenery, leaving no doubt that director Olivia Harrison is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to conceiving and staging a worthwhile show. It's clear, too, that costume design, light design, and choreography have come together fluidly for this particular show to produce a riveting production of which Camelot can be proud.

Starring Courtney Crawford as Molly and Eoghan McDowell as Sam (their counterparts in the film were Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore) the show is a love story at heart, but it's also on the receiving end of a heavy dose of moribund reality, since one of the romantic leads is technically dead for the entire proceedings.

Both Crawford and McDowell are young actors with a big future ahead of them. Crawford's Molly has to feel Sam, but not see him, and the actress does an excellent job of emoting, without actually ever relating to the physical presence of her deceased beloved. McDowell's role is a feat of physical skill. As his Sam comes to terms with the predicament of being ethereal, McDowell lands blows that can't be felt, chases villains who cannot be physically challenged, and (perhaps most touchingly) is constantly reaching for a lover who cannot feel or reciprocate his touch.

Enter Oda Mae Brown (Jade A. Chavis) a hustling psychic who's turning parlor tricks in a small Manhattan apartment. When Sam actually manages to reach her psychically, hilarity ensues. Ms. Chavis is the best thing about this production, a wise-cracking New York cynic with dance moves and sass to spare. When she's onstage, the production is at another level altogether, and one would hope that this is the first of many star turns for her at Camelot.

As Carl Bruner, Joey Larimer is the appropriately Machiavellian narcissist of the piece. He has betrayed Sam and is attempting to bed Molly. Early in the play, Bruner's Joey presents like Mr. Rogers, but soon goes through a sinister metamorphoses into a kind of Wall Street psychopath with few redeeming qualities. Bruner is adept at playing a man who appears fundamentally harmless but shows up as a deadly predator.

Staging really is the thing in this show, with beautiful audio visual effects by Bart Grady and terrific costuming and choreography by Addie Hall-Kester and Kayla Garrett, respectively. In a couple of particularly strong scenes, a series of slithering, Lycra clad soul-eaters creep onstage to drag the less moral members of the ensemble to a decidedly dismal eternity in a subterranean pit. Light and dark are a strong supporting theme in the show, with a climactic scene in which Sam is released from the chains of purgatory in the ultimate indicator of redemption for an earnest soul.

The play is a worthy effort from Camelot Theatre and an entertaining night out. The company continues to turn out strong performances from a polished group of emerging young actors. It's also a strong indication of Harrison's maturing range as a director. As such, Camelot's "Ghost the Musical" is a slick and engaging romp into supernatural world that was worth seeing.

— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at gillespie.jeffrey@gmail.com.