Riverside Center for the Performing Arts presents Ghost the Musical, with book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin and music and lyrics by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, based on the 1990 Oscar-winning film starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. Patti D’Beck directs and choreographs this fun, moving production. Toneisha Harris, a finalist on the 18th season of The Voice, takes on the role that won Whoopi Goldberg an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and showcases her outstanding vocals. An edgier, more modern show than the classic content that Riverside normally favors, Ghost was a somewhat risky choice for the center, but the gamble pays off in a big way!
The first word that comes to mind when thinking about this musical is movement. With almost 50 scene changes in the show, the technical crew (directed by Nathan Dunn) had a tall order. Scenic Designer Frank Foster uses several imaginative elements to help drive the plot, including projections designed by Michael Jarret that capture New York City’s chaotic, exciting atmosphere. Jarret is also the lighting designer and captures, alongside sound designer J. Pat Bragg, the mystical/spiritual tone with a number of creative elements, the most memorable being some chilling work with shadows. However, the most impressive technical element of the production is the music. Every time I see a show at Riverside, I end up gushing about the live orchestra, directed offstage by Carson Eubank, and it’s with good reason. They consistently deliver expert performances with every visit, and Ghost is no exception. If you favor productions with live music, then Riverside really can’t be beat.
The plot of Ghost the Musical is pretty straightforward: Sam Wheat and Molly Jenson (Jarrad Biron Green and Ashlee Waldbauer) are a young couple who are excited about moving in together and building a home, and we get a feel for their relationship with the opening number “Here Right Now.” Their happiness is cruelly cut short when Sam is killed, and he finds himself (well, his ghost) caught between the realms of the living and dead in the number “You Gotta Let Go Now.” When it becomes clear that Molly is in serious danger, Sam desperately searches for a way to communicate with her, and he finds it in Oda Mae Brown (Toneisha Harris), a fraudulent psychic who turns out to be more gifted than she thought she was. The two conspire (somewhat unwillingly on Oda Mae’s part) to make Molly understand the severity of the situation while also tracking down the people responsible for his death.
If it sounds a bit silly, that’s because it is. Above all, this show (like the original movie) is fun. Harris brings a lot of energy and comedy into a tragically absurd situation, and it’s fair to say that she has the most notable numbers. She gives a lively performance of “Are You a Believer” with the ensemble, and earns the loudest applause from the audience with the spirited number “I’m Outta Here.” Other dynamic numbers include “Focus,” sung by a subway ghost played by Carter Crosby, whose frenetic performance succeeds in making one of the smallest characters also one of the most memorable. Joe Mayes also does a great job as Sam’s best friend Carl Bruner, and his number “More” easily showcases the best choreography in the production.
While the show is a lot of fun, it also explores the powerful relationship between love and grief. Waldbauer gives a particularly moving performance with her number “With You,” showing grief in its brutal, raw form, and then later brings some perspective on the subject with “Nothing Stops Another Day.” Grief is, unfortunately, a journey that we ultimately all share, and this production does a great job respectfully broaching the subject while also being…well, a ghost story.
Riverside Center for the Performing Arts’ Ghost the Musical is intriguing in two ways: it’s a fun ghost story that’s here just in time for Halloween, but it’s also a poignant retrospective about the power of love, loss, and human connection. With outstanding performances all around, I would highly recommend it for a memorable evening of entertainment.
Running Time: Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
Adult Dinner & Show – $75 (plus applicable taxes)
Seniors (65+) Dinner & Show – $70 (plus applicable taxes)
Adult Show Only – $60
Seniors (65+) Show Only – $55
Children (3-12) Show Only – $55
There will be a $5.00 online processing fee added per ticket.
The program for Ghost the Musical is online here.
COVID Safety: Staff wears masks when working the floor (meal-service portion). Patrons are not required to be masked in the facility; but if patrons want to wear a mask, they are welcome to.