Toby’s Dinner Theatre stages ‘Ghost’ musical that expands ‘Unchained Melody’ songbook

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Ghost' at Toby's Dinner Theatre (Part 1)

The Oscar-winning 1990 film made powerful use of The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” at a romantic sculpting wheel before expanding into a Broadway musical in 2012.

Now, Toby’s Dinner Theatre stages “Ghost: The Musical” from Aug. 26 to Nov. 6.

“It’s a beautiful, romantic love story,” Actor Ashley Johnson-Moore told WTOP. “It’s timeless, it’s a bit fantasy. … Everyone is going to cry from this show, but not just cry out of sadness, cry out of beauty. … Their voices are so beautiful and haunting.”

It’s Moore’s second time playing a Whoopi Goldberg role at Toby’s, having earned a Helen Hayes nomination for “Sister Act.” This time, she tackles Whoopi’s Oscar-winning role as the charismatic medium Oda Mae Brown, who helps the ghost of Sam Wheat (Patrick Gover) solve his murder while contacting his grieving lover Molly (MaryKate Brouillet).

“Sometimes we have loved ones who have passed on who we don’t get a chance to say goodbye to, but even though he’s passed on, he still has work to do and he just wants to be able to say, ‘Not only did I die, but I love you,'” Johnson-Moore said.

The brilliant premise won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin, who also wrote “Jacob’s Ladder” (1990), bringing an eerie supernatural murder mystery that uniquely meshed with the comedy chops of Director Jerry Zucker of “Airplane!” (1980).

She calls Whoopi Goldberg “brilliant” for the way she communicates with both Sam and Molly.

“You can actually see the difference,” Johnson-Moore said. “She can hear him, but she can’t see him. … It’s almost like she’s looking through him. … The famous bank scene, he’s standing right next to her, she scans the room and looks past him.”

The musical version is adapted by Rubin, Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, including DeCarlo Raspberry’s “showstopper” number in the hospital when Sam passes away, as well as a scary subway ghost who makes you wonder whether he jumped in front of a train or was pushed. Best of all, Gover sings “Unchained Melody” beyond the record player.

“It’s one of the most beautiful scenes you’ll ever see on stage,” Johnson-Moore said.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Ghost' at Toby's Dinner Theatre (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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