Set to make its Southern California debut this weekend, Ghost: The Musical is bringing the acclaimed 1990 film to the stage. Like the original Oscar-winning film, Ghost: The Musical follows main characters “Sam and Molly, a young couple whose connection takes a shocking turn after Sam’s untimely death. Trapped between two worlds, Sam refuses to leave Molly when he learns she is in grave danger. Desperate to communicate with her, he turns to a storefront psychic who helps him protect Molly and avenge his death.”
To bring the story to life on stage through music and songs, the exceptional songwriting team of Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard stepped up to the challenge of composing a score that makes this one of the standout musicals of the summer.
Many fans are familiar with Dave Stewart’s work as one-half of the rock duo The Eurythmics with Annie Lennox. For those not as familiar with Glen Ballard’s impressive line of work, he co-wrote and produced the GRAMMY-winning album Jagged Little Pill with singer Alanis Morissette, as well as co-wrote Michael Jackson hit “Man In The Mirror” and much more.
So how did this collaboration start? Dave explains it was a project eight years in the making after being approached by the producers Colin Ingram and David Garfinkle, who collaborated with the Oscar-winning movie’s original screenwriter, Bruce Joel Rubin.
After agreeing to take on the project, Dave brought on Glen to collaborate with on the compositions. Though both are veteran songwriters and producers in the business, composing the songs for each character was no easy feat.
“We like challenges, and one of the biggest challenges in the first ten minutes is the lead character is killed, so you have to write all these songs of him as a ghost, which is you know, interesting,” explained Dave. “Then you have these great desperate characters.”
Dave tells us that writing the music and songs for the character Oda Mae Brown, originally played by Whoopi Goldberg in the film, were some of the funnest to write. This outgoing psychic character allowed Dave and Glen to experiment with New Orleans-y funk and calypso-inspired pieces, which are also proving to be the breakout hits of the show.
“[Oda Mae] was a great character to create musically because I thought, okay, she’s a bit like James Brown compared to what was happening on the stage,” he said. “She’s got these assistants, and I thought they could be like James Brown backup singers.”
One of those breakout hits with Oda Mae is the number “I’m Outta Here,” a lively song that plays out the psychic’s wildest fantasies when she thinks she hits it big upon receiving a check for $10 million.
“We tried to tap into her fantasy of what it would be like to get $10 million and what she would do with it,” said Glen. “It’s really the most stylized [piece] and it’s Oda Mae Brown’s wish of what she would do with the [money] and it’s starts with ‘I’m Outta Here.’ It’s a fun one.”
While the musical does include some upbeat songs, Dave and Glen warn that the musical is a tearjerker, just like the original film.
“The other end of the scale is a few tearjerkers, literally,” said Dave. “This is a warning to anyone coming to see ‘Ghost’ it sold more Kleenex tissues than any other movie, and the musical has as well. Sometimes people are sobbing so loud, people are actually shushing them while they’re crying.”
Another highlight from the film that is included in the musical adaptation is the performance of “Unchained Melody.” As Dave notes, the song featured prominently in the musical, but not as you’d might expect.
“We won’t tell you how ‘Unchained Melody’ appears – it appears three different moments, each one completely different than the next,” he said. “One version makes you laugh, another version makes you go ‘oh my God,’ and the third one, out come the handkerchiefs again.”
Opening night of Ghost: The Musical is this Friday, June 27th at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood and runs until July 3rd. For complete showtimes and tickets, click here.
Hear more behind the scenes stories on the making of Ghost: The Musical from the songwriters themselves, Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, in the clip below.