Ghost: The Musical

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.

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Photo by Joe Toreno. Hair by Marina Migliaccio and makeup by Lisa Chamberlain, both for the Rex Agency.

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