“Ghost” first appeared in movie theaters in 1990. A tragic love story with supernatural and occasional comedic elements, the film was an unexpected success. It became the top-grossing movie of that year, winning two Academy Awards—Best Supporting Actress for Whoopi Goldberg) and Best Screenplay for Bruce Joel Rubin. In 2011, Rubin revisited “Ghost,” providing the book and contributing to the lyrics for “Ghost: The Musical.” Nominated for three Tony Awards, the show played on Broadway and London’s West End.
Outstanding singing, excellent performances, and a feeling of vibrant energy and joy of living make this show a winner…
Just in time for the Hallowe’en season, the show is now appearing in Fredericksburg, Virginia at the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts. Happily, this production is blessed with a wonderfully talented and charismatic cast. The story revolves around Sam Wheat (Jarrad Green), a young New York banker, and his romantic partner, artist Molly Jensen (Ashlee Waldbauer). The two are very much in love, but Sam is suddenly killed during a robbery. Molly is devastated, but Sam’s situation is even worse—he is now a disembodied spirit who can see humans but not communicate with them. This situation changes when he stumbles across Oda Mae Brown (Toneisha Harris), a phony psychic and spiritual advisor who can’t see but can hear Sam. Together they work to uncover those responsible for Sam’s death, and protect Molly from them.
Jarrad Green is very good as Sam—conscientious and caring, but somewhat fearful of emotion. Green shows how Sam learns to use his fear and other negative emotions to fight for the people for whom he cares the most. Ashlee Waldbauer is outstanding as Molly, whose voice is bell-like, yet also conveys tremendous emotion. She portrays a character overwhelmed by grief, yet without a hint of melodrama. This is especially true during her standout solo number, “With You.” Together, Green and Waldbauer have excellent chemistry. Combined with the direction and choreography of Patti D’Beck, they are completely believable as a young couple who share a vibrant love, both in this world and in the hereafter.
Toneisha Harris is excellent as Oda Mae Brown. She plays this over-the-top character as very funny, while retaining the character’s sense of dignity and self-respect. This is seen especially clearly during her number “I’m Outta Here,” during which she imagines herself leading a life of leisure. Robert Biedermann is engaging as a witty, singing and dancing Hospital Ghost. Also noteworthy is Joe Mayes as Sam and Molly’s questionable friend Carl Brunner. Mayes does a lot with this rather small role. He successfully conveys an impatient man who wants to value wealth above all else, but who also desires friendship and connection. His vocal in “Life Turns on a Dime” is compelling in expressing this yearning.
The lighting design by Michael Jarett is excellent, setting different moods well and also significantly contributing to the show’s simple, but highly effective, special effects. Favoring rock-based show tunes, the production features musical accompaniment by a live, seven-piece orchestra. The sound mix is generally good, but it is sometimes a challenge to make out lyrics.
Overall, the production is excellent. Outstanding singing, excellent performances, and a feeling of vibrant energy and joy of living make this show a winner, and one need not have seen the 1990 movie to enjoy the show. This view is echoed by the reviewer’s almost fourteen-year-old daughter who accompanied him. She pronounced the show “epic, with good songs!” The show does contain adult themes and occasional strong language that may make it inappropriate for younger children.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and fifteen minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: Adult themes, occasional strong language, artificial mist, and mild stroboscopic lighting effects.
“Ghost: The Musical” runs through November 6, 2022 at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts, 95 Riverside Parkway, Fredericksburg, VA 22406. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (540) 370-4300, or going online here.