Theater Review: “Ghost: The Musical” at the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts

Ashlee Waldbauer and Jarrad Green as Molly and Sam in ‘Ghost: The Musical’. Photo courtesy of the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts.

“Ghost” first appeared in theaters in 1990. A tragic love story with supernatural and occasionally comedic elements, the film was an unexpected hit. It became the highest-grossing film of that year, winning two Oscars (Best Supporting Actress for Whoopi Goldberg) and Best Screenplay for Bruce Joel Rubin. In 2011, Rubin revisited “Ghost”, providing the book and contributing lyrics to “Ghost: The Musical”. Nominated for three Tony Awards, the show played on Broadway and in London’s West End.

Outstanding singing, excellent performances, and a sense of vibrant energy and zest for life make this show a winner…

Just in time for the Halloween season, the show comes to Fredericksburg, Virginia at the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts. Thankfully, this production features 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’s now a disembodied spirit who can see humans but not communicate with them. This situation changes when he comes across Oda Mae Brown (Toneisha Harris), a false psychic and spiritual advisor who cannot see but can hear Sam. Together, they work to uncover those responsible for Sam’s death and protect Molly from it.

Jarrad Green is very good as Sam – conscientious and caring, but a bit fearful of emotions. Green shows how Sam learns to use his fear and other negative emotions to fight for the people he cares about most. Ashlee Waldbauer is outstanding as Molly, whose voice sounds like a bell, but also conveys tremendous emotion. It portrays a character overwhelmed with grief, but without the slightest trace of melodrama. This is especially true during his standout solo number, “With You.” Together, Green and Waldbauer have great chemistry. Combined with Patti D’Beck’s direction and choreography, they are utterly believable as a young couple who share a vibrant love, both in this world and the afterlife.

Toneisha Harris is excellent as Oda Mae Brown. She plays this over-the-top character as very funny, while maintaining the character’s sense of dignity and self-respect. This is particularly evident during her “I’m Outta Here” number, during which she imagines herself leading a life of leisure. Robert Biedermann engages as the witty, singing and dancing Hospital Ghost. Also of note is Joe Mayes as Sam and Molly’s dodgy 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 also desires friendship and connection. Her voice in “Life Turns on a Dime” is compelling in expressing this desire.

Michael Jarett’s lighting design is excellent, creating many different moods and also contributing significantly to the show’s simple but very effective special effects. Favoring show tunes based on rock, the production features musical accompaniment by a seven-piece orchestra. The sound mix is ​​generally good, but sometimes it’s hard to make out the lyrics.

Overall, the production is excellent. Outstanding singing, great performances, and a sense of vibrant energy and zest for life make this show a winner, and you don’t have to have seen the 1990 film to appreciate the show. This point of view is shared by the nearly fourteen-year-old daughter of the critic who accompanied him. She pronounced the show “epic, with great songs!” The show contains adult themes and occasional foul language which may make it inappropriate for young children.

Duration: approximately 2h15 with a 15 minute intermission.

Notice: Adult themes, occasional foul language, artificial haze, and mild strobe lighting effects.

“Ghost: The Musical” runs through November 6, 2022 at the 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 by line here.

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