Friday, May 27, 2011

New Musical iGHOST is Full of Charm

Peter Welkin as Sir Simon
Photos by Richard M. Johnson

In Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ’ new musical iGhost, an American art student named Virginia Otis (Rebecca Johnson) travels to England on a work/study program and finds herself in the midst of a mystery. The ghostly resident of Canterville Chase, Sir Simon (Peter Welkin), has been cursed by his wife, Lucinda (Dorrie Braun), upon her death nearly a hundred years earlier. If he does not solve a riddle and break the curse by the 100-year anniversary, which is only days away, he will be trapped at Canterville forever.

The story is an updated retelling of Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost,” which gives the savvy Virginia a technological advantage over Simon and his previous attempts at solving the riddle. Using her computer, iPod, and plenty of ingenuity, she proves that truth wins in the end, love comes when least expected, and fear is really of no use to anyone.

They are lessons the current Canterville heir, Trevor (Zachary Ford) comes to learn too as he transforms from a stuffy, stuttering young man, afraid of Sir Simon, to a hero who must rescue Virginia when she becomes dangerously lost.

Zachary Ford and Rebecca Johson in iGhost

The performances of this trio of actors are the great joy of the evening. Johnson is absolutely delightful as the high-spirited heroine who never gives up. She infuses her down-to-earth practicality with a dreamer’s optimism making it impossible to resist her. Likewise, Ford is irresistible in a role that fits him to a T, or tea, as it were. Watch him in the moments where he is listening to the other characters (as in “Spirits Soar”) and you will see the subtle changes of his thoughts and the way he is slowly swept away by his feelings for Virginia. It’s a lovely transition and a journey well-played over the course of the show. He’s funny; he’s charming; and, watching him dance conjures images of a young Ray Bolger.

In 2010, Peter Welkin gave a commanding performance as Anatoly in the MET Theatre’s concert reading of Chess and his Sir Simon is a perfect follow-up role. He is a menacing presence, powerful and prone to fits of temper, but he also shows the devastated heart of a man who is lost…and he does it with to-die-for soaring baritone vocals that fill the rafters. Luckily composer Adryan Russ has given him some great melodies with which to show his stuff.

Paul Zegler and Bonnie Snyder as Mr. and Mrs. Umney add to the comedy and have a few touching moments of their own, though their vocals lack the polish of the principals, and Braun somehow seems out of place as Lucinda in a dress that doesn’t flatter and a seriousness that feels at odds with the tone of this classic musical romance.

Director Jules Aaron makes excellent use of the rather wide stage and has created a way of levitating objects, including Virginia, which is quite unexpected and ingenious, given the limitations of a 99-seat theatre budget. His enthusiastic ensemble serves the purpose well, and also does fine work with Allison Bibicoff’s lighthearted choreography.

Clever lyrics and beautiful music make this iGhost a lovely evening in which “Anything is Possible.” It is a charming adaptation of a classic ghostly romance.

For tickets and more information go to

iGhost is part of the Fourth Annual Festival of New American Musicals.

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