Sally Spectre: The Musical

by Trevor Thomas

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday October 22, 2011

Sally Spectre: The Musical

When Edge first encountered Sally Spectre, the little ghost haunting the upstairs bedroom of a decaying New Orleans mansion, it was October, 2009. Now, two years later, author/composer David P. Johnson presents a revised "Sally Spectre: The Musical" in a new production currently on the boards at NoHo Stages.

What was once a somewhat overly long two-act musical has changed into a beguiling chamber piece, gaining in charm what it shed in volume. Johnson has retooled many of his musical numbers and found in his new Sally (Justine Huxley) a sweet voiced innocent happily minus his original actress's air of vampishness which caused one to occasionally mistake this delightful little fable for an unintended sexual allegory.

His most endearing inventions, the little girl's playthings that come to life to help her find the way out of her bedroom prison, include the original toy soldier (Matthew Hoffman) reprising his winning blend of stylized movement and powerful voice. The adorable Hudsen Cy Schuchart plays the little stuffed toy so beaten up by time and repeated hugging he can't remember what he was originally when all his stuffing was still intact.

Paul Walling comes on board with a charming mix of the sinister and the bewildered as The Wraith, whose comically foreboding presence creates the sense of urgency motivating Sally and her friends to solve the mystery of her untimely death. He is attended by his familiars played for broad laughs by Robert W. Laur and Sarah Schulte -- all together, an enormously appealing sextet of actor/singers.

The wide stage of Theatre West hosted the original; this new version is confined to a space less than half that size. Director Janet Miller stages the show with economy and inventiveness, focusing the work and animating it to great effect.

Mr. Johnson deftly accompanies the singers on a Yamaha electronic keyboard enriching his inventive score and kicking it up a few notches.

There is still weakness in the ending. Johnson has at his disposal the same musical configuration that gives "A Weekend in the Country," Sondheim's first act finale of "A Little Night Music," the kind of vibrant energy that brings down houses. Sally Spectre screams out for an equally animated dust up at its end, a through-composed unified finale letting the play's conclusion scamper off rather than slink away. As it stands, the sextet ends, there is some low energy stage business, a sly little wink in the final moment, and then bows. Encompass all that within one glorious, energetic Mozartean finale and the whole piece will soar.

Performances through November 20 at The NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. For tickets, call 323.810.9476 or visit