Alberta Youth Theatre Collective reviews Austin O'Brien's Ghost the Musical

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The Edmonton Journal is proud to host reviews of local high school theatrical productions, written by student reviewers through the Alberta Youth Theatre Collective. Reviews of past shows can be found here

By Sameeha Mohammed
Lillian Osborne High School

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Screams of terror and anguish echo as Austin O’Brien’s production of Ghost the Musical unfolds a tale of grief and mystery through the supernatural. From the awe-inspiring vocals to the artistic exploration of the set and lighting, this production was a masterclass in musical production.

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From its beginnings as an iconic movie from the 90s that was adapted for the stage, this show follows the story of Molly Jensen and her deceased boyfriend, Sam Wheat. The couple goes through the mystery of his untimely death as the narrative continues to unravel as the line between reality and the supernatural crosses.

The cast of this show presented incredible vocal strength and control. In particular, Emily Liberona, who played Molly Jensen, had an enchanting singing voice that kept the audience on the edge of their seats. Her solos brought remarkable depth and emotion to this mournful character. The other main character, Sam Wheat, played by Kether Reyes, showed a prodigious vocal range and his performance showed a purposeful and strong direction. In addition, the chemistry between Liberona and Reyes indicated two skillful actors who understood how to form strong relationships on stage. The antagonist, Carl Bruner, played by Sasha White, depicted a convincing and chilling aura of a character overtaken by greed. The transition from the classic sleazy banker archetype to something much more dark and sinister was skillfully achieved by White. These three sang together throughout the performance with striking harmonies and graceful tones that dazzled the audience.

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The lighting decisions made by the crew transitioned the audience seamlessly from the world of the living to the world of the dead. The coloured light refracting through the fog on stage gave a haunting aura and added a sense of grandeur to the performance. The use of strobe effects gave a visceral reaction to the audience and made it possible for quick body-double switches when needed. This show provided the pleasure of a live band made up of students who astonished the audience with their melodic tunes. The music carried through the theatre, hypnotizing those who had the pleasure of hearing it.

This performance of Ghost the Musical by Austin O’Brien flaunted incredible vocal talent and deliberate lighting and set decisions. All of the effort that went into this production was evident and made this show one to remember.

Ghost the musical
Austin O’Brien High School’s – Ghost the MusicalPhotos by Darla Woodley of Red Socks Photography.2024 Alberta Youth Theatre Collective Photo by RED SOCKS PHOTOGRAPHY DARLA WOOD /edm

By Meena Al-Bachachi
Ross Sheppard High School

Life after death – what is it? That is a composite question consistently asked in this day and age. It is also a question that is explored through incredible live music, complex characters, and a heartbreaking romance, all in Austin O’Brien High School’s production of Ghost The Musical. In two hours filled with siren-voiced vocals, fantastic choreography, and a story that is sure to bring you to tears, the audience went on an unforgettable emotional rollercoaster, leaving jaws on the ground from the minute the lights went up, right until curtain call.

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Ghost The Musical, based on the 1990 thriller carrying the same name, follows the lives of two lovers, Sam and Molly, as they attempt to start fresh in their new apartment in Brooklyn, New York. However, one fatal night irrevocably changes everything for both of them. In a show consisting of a haunting, mysterious love story with humour sprinkled throughout, audience members went through an indelible journey with the characters.

One of the things that made this show such a success was the blanket theme throughout: the simpler, the better. There was no extravagant set that took months to finish, which allowed both the cast and crew to have a canvas on which they could express their creativity beautifully. The effort put into this production was so clear, and it was a beautiful reminder of what young teenage minds are truly capable of. One of the other signs of artistic flair in this show was the live music. There was a student-only band playing the music the whole time, which made the experience of the show so much more memorable. The feeling of the music being played for the audience was a feeling that is unmatched in live theatre. With the beautiful live vocals, the pit band tied everything together impeccably. Mentioning the vocals, credit must absolutely be given to the wonderfully talented cast for both their musical abilities as well as their acting. Siren-voiced actors are found throughout the whole cast of this show. In particular, the leads Sam and Molly, played by the musically gifted Kether Reyes and Emily Liberona, respectively. Reyes and Liberona drove the audience to tears with their hauntingly beautiful solos and powerful harmonies, paired with their incredible onstage chemistry.

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The quote that first comes to mind when summarizing this musical is: “The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” Ghost The Musical inspires the audience to understand the balance between love and pain, and Austin O’Brien High School’s production, with an impeccable cast and crew, made this story a truly lasting impression.

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Austin O’Brien High School’s – Ghost the MusicalPhotos by Darla Woodley of Red Socks Photography.2024 Alberta Youth Theatre Collective Photo by RED SOCKS PHOTOGRAPHY DARLA WOOD /edm

By Samrta Sabharwal
Victoria School of the Arts

From its gripping story to its melodious live music, Austin O’Brien’s Ghost the Musical is a play that will leave you speechless. Despite having comedic undertones, Ghost the Musical is an emotion-filled mystery that will bring tears to your eyes by the end.

Ghost the Musical is a musical adaptation of the 1990 film, Ghost, which follows the same plot. The story is about a woman named Molly and her boyfriend named Sam. Molly and Sam have a picture-perfect life; they’ve moved in together, have successful jobs, and are considering marriage! Unfortunately, right after the sudden proposal, Sam is shot. Yet instead of going to some kind of afterlife, Sam becomes a ghost. Molly struggles to deal with Sam’s death but finds comfort in Sam’s friend/business partner Carl. With the help of a psychic, Oda Mae, Sam tries to uncover the mystery surrounding his death while also trying to protect Molly from his killer.

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A part of what made this experience breathtaking was the acting and intimacy that the two main characters had. Sam, played by Kether Reyes, and Molly, played by Emily Liberona, were able to portray their character’s relationship and emotions to a spectacular degree. Carl, played by Sasha White, and Oda Mae, played by Hope Wambui Ndung’u, were two memorable characters that stood out with their entrancing acting skills and characterization. Besides the wonderful acting, another big part of the show was the music. The entire cast had gorgeous voices that when paired with the live music pit band made every song feel supernatural. The pit band, which consists of: Lydia Ball on Violin, Ben Blatz on Flute, Connor Roskewich on Alto Saxophone, Chloe Wylie on Tenor Saxophone, Alexander Treleaven on Bass Guitar, Isabelle Hlady on Trumpet, Alexander Greer on Drums, and Syian Moore on Clarinet made the overall experience feel more immersive.

When you think about the great parts of a show, the first thing most people think of is the plot or the acting but one of the most important parts is the work done by the crew. In Ghost the Musical there were many technical elements that really brought Sam and Molly’s world to life. Lighting is one of those elements. The lighting in the show was used not only to depict mood but also to depict setting. The lighting crew (Joshua Pinkoski, Sofia Evardone, and Julia Cadwell) spent a lot of time making sure to ace all of their cues to make the show as impactful as possible. The set and props were another element. Almost all of the props had wheels beneath them to make set changes quicker. The crew working on the set and props (Alisel Manago, Sofia Evardone, Jacquelyn Vasquez, and Taylor Nordholm) put in a great amount of attention and care to make sure that every prop fit well with the story yet also be easy to move for set changes. The stagehands (Shania Ashun-Wallace, Jacquelyn Vasquez, Enita Biju, Kayla Ursel, and Sofia Evardone) made use of whatever time they had and allowed all of the set changes to happen smoothly and without wait.

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All in all, Ghost the Musical is an emotional play that deals with grief, acceptance, love, and the supernatural. The combined efforts of the cast and crew are what really made Ghost the Musical such a phenomenal, tear-jerking experience.

Ghost the musical
Austin O’Brien High School’s – Ghost the MusicalPhotos by Darla Woodley of Red Socks Photography.2024 Alberta Youth Theatre Collective Photo by RED SOCKS PHOTOGRAPHY DARLA WOOD /edm

By Ian Swartz
McNally High School

Taking on a show as grave as Bruce Joel Rubin’s Ghost is no easy task, yet that didn’t shake Austin O’Brien’s drama department from putting on a truly haunting performance. The story itself follows a man trying to reach his partner from the afterlife after a sudden accident throws their lives off course, uncovering the truth behind his death along the way. Ghost, after having been adapted from a 1990s movie by the same name, opened in the West End in the summer of 2011 before it transferred to Broadway the following year. The show is well known for its dive into grief and having to let go whilst combining in an element of murder mystery.

As talented, diverse, and overall wonderful as the supporting cast was, it was those playing the two main protagonists, Molly Jensen and Sam Wheat (played by Emily Liberona and Kether Reyes respectively), who really breathed life (and death) into the show! Their vocals were consistently flooring; they sang with such great tone and confidence that it became hard to believe that they were only in high school. In addition to their brilliant singing, both Liberona and Reyes gave a powerful and emotional performance together, lifting each other up and bouncing off of one another to really sell the grief and sorrow that became so central to the show.

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And, of course, it would be difficult to mention Liberona and Reyes without also talking about Sasha White in his role as Carl Bruner, the couple’s best friend. White was a perfect foil for the two main characters. His charismatic performance and disposition offered a new and refreshing perspective into the world’s drama. As the show went on, it became increasingly difficult for the audience to take their eyes off of White whenever he stepped on stage. He gave a strong sense of dedication and helped round off the main characters and really sell the story.

Coming in to tie everything together was the awesome Austin O’Brien tech crew! From detailed props to constant scene transitions, these crew members did it all! One aspect that really shone above the rest was the lighting taken on by Joshua Pinkoski, Sofia Evardone, and Julia Cadwell. These students helped set the stage, subtly colour-coding the characters with their own unique lighting motifs. Also worth noting were the people behind the soundboard, being spearheaded by Janice Siewert, who worked hand-in-hand with the lighting team to create surprising and memorable moments left and right.

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Overall, Austin O’Brien presented the audience with a heartfelt production and a new perspective on death. From the mundane to the monumental, they blew us all away!

Ghost the musical
Austin O’Brien High School’s – Ghost the MusicalPhotos by Darla Woodley of Red Socks Photography.2024 Alberta Youth Theatre Collective Photo by RED SOCKS PHOTOGRAPHY DARLA WOOD /edm

By Astrid Weimer
Ross Sheppard High School

A haunting energy hung in the theatre as the audience entered to see Austin O’Brien High School’s production of Ghost The Musical. Fog and white fabric draped over set pieces piqued people’s curiosity, setting the mood for the supernatural mystery to come. The story follows Molly and Sam, a couple who move to Brooklyn but get attacked while walking home. Sam is killed, and shenanigans ensue as his spirit remains behind to avenge his murder and protect Molly, who is still in danger.

The actors balanced topics of death and grief with enough humour to keep the audience from crying every second of the show. Molly (Emily Liberona) delivered a gut-wrenching performance, each sob and scream tearing open everyone’s hearts. Her near-angelic vocals had softness, yet powerfully filled the theatre. On the other side, Oda Mae (Hope Wambui Ndung’u) brought much-needed whimsy and attitude with larger-than-life stage presence and clever delivery. Sam (Kether Reyes) had a gorgeous voice and was entirely immersed in the character, reacting and emoting while haunting the stage. With the ghostly elements, actors pretended not to see him for almost the whole show. This was very successful, particularly when he stood inches away from Carl (Sasha White)’s face during a tense scene. Carl was also portrayed incredibly, with every little inflection and mannerism planned out carefully. Dynamics between all the characters were realistic to how complex human relationships are. Molly and Sam’s connection was visibly strong, making everyone root for them immediately (and their harmonies together were breathtaking). Louise (Erin Dorish) and Clara (Anastasiia Savchuk) had bright personalities immediately, and the dramatic flair required for such exuberance. Fight scenes, both physical and with ghost powers, were wonderfully executed. Body double swaps upon deaths were so smooth, permitting ghosts and corpses to be onstage together.

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New York came to life (though it was filled with death) through carefully curated technical aspects. The fog machine present throughout the show, especially with the flashlights in the opening scene, facilitated the moody atmosphere. Lead costumer, Keith Jacey Junos did a fantastic job with colour symbolism and coordination. Each costume felt true to the character, notably Oda Mae’s pizzazz and the feathered mask she wore on her first appearance. The pit band tucked into the corner was incredible, playing so well the audience could sometimes forget they weren’t a recording. Cues were timed perfectly, especially the sounds that played when ghosts used their spooky powers. Lighting colours were always on point, from the bright flashiness in Oda Mae’s songs to the green of banks and a villain. Projections tied into the action naturally, with one standout depicting what the ghost of Sam typed ominously on a computer screen.

The cast and crew of this production explored love, grief, and mystery in a very complex and detailed way. The care they put in made the audience believe, even just for a moment, in the magic of it all. Still, after the final bow, they left everyone wanting “more and more and more!”

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