Sam Wheat (Richard Fleeshman) and the cast of the West End production of Ghost:The Musical (Sean Ebsworth Barnes, courtesy the Harman Group)
There’s no question that Patrick Swayze plus Demi Moore plus a pottery wheel equals one of the most romantic scenes in movie history—but what if they broke into a love ballad as they sculpted that clay? Swoon! That and so much more will be going on in Ghost: The Musical, opening on Broadway this month (though without the movie’s actors). The classic story follows Molly Jensen, whose husband, Sam Wheat, is murdered and then trapped between the world of the living and the dead. Only phony psychic Oda Mae Brown can help the couple reconnect and prove that true love never dies.
The show debuted on London’s West End last July. And now, with many new cast members and amped-up musical numbers, Ghost is coming to the Great White Way. Dance Spirit talked to Australian choreographer Ashley Wallen—who’s worked with the likes of Kylie Minogue and The Black Eyed Peas—about his Broadway debut, and how he added a music video vibe to one of the most iconic love stories out there.
Dance Spirit: How is choreographing a Broadway show different from projects you’ve worked on in the past?
Ashley Wallen: I usually work on music videos, commercials and film, where I’ll have one week of rehearsals before shooting. It’s been so great to be able to rehearse for five weeks, then tech for four, then be in previews for four before we even open. It gives me the chance to get to know the cast and everyone who’s working on the show. Plus, I just love musicals.
DS: Was it hard to add dance to this love story’s plot?
AW: Yes, because Ghost is such a well-known film that doesn’t have dancing in it. But the writers have come up with really contemporary pop music that still tells the story. The main characters will have intimate moments that open up into these great big dance numbers.
DS: What styles of dance did you use?
AW: There are loads of different styles. It’s mostly contemporary, but with a theatrical feel. Then there are the scenes on the streets of NYC, which have a slick, jazz-based style.
DS: Do you have a favorite number?
AW: “I’m Outta Here,” which is Oda Mae’s fantasy about having $10 million. We just went to town on it. It’s the only number in the show with the whole cast onstage. The 17 new dancers are so great that I’ve been able to update the steps from what the previous cast did in London. It’s like a really fun music video.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.